Jim C. Hines is a Michigan fantasy sci-fi author whose previous work on the Princess series I’ve enjoyed (I must have read them at stressful times, for though I’ve read all but one of them, I don’t seem to have reviewed any of them. Urg.) I also go back to his blog post highlighting the sexism and body-torturing nature of poses on urban fantasy covers on a regular basis. So I was very excited when I started hearing good things about Libriomancer from multiple quarters.
Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines.
The basic premise: if enough people read the same edition of a book and find it compelling enough, someone with the right magical gifts – a libriomancer – can pull things out of the books into the real world, as long as they fit through the book. For example, Lucy’s cordial from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. There are limitations both on what can be brought through and on how frequently a libriomancer can work the magic before sanity becomes an issue, but to keep this potentially catastrophic power in check, Gutenberg himself founded the order of Die Zwelf Portenare. They monitor libriomancers and put seals preventing such use on books with especially dangerous premises, such as earth-destroying bombs or time travel devices. Isaac Vainio, our librarian hero, used to be a libriomancer with this organization before he was kicked out for failure to control his magic. Now, however, a diverse population of vampires from different books have banded together to destroy the whole organization and its archives – and somehow Isaac got on their list. In between attacks at work, Isaac is joined by the intelligent, powerful, and curvy nymph Lena Greenwood. Her lover and his former psychotherapist has been taken by the vampires, and she needs Isaac’s help to find out what happened to her and stop the attacks. However, there’s more than one enemy at work here, and Isaac will have to go deeper into libriomancy than he’s ever gone before to find them all.
There’s some ethical dilemma here, as Lena is a nymph who was written (in a bad 1960s fantasy book) both to need and to be incapable of disobeying a lover, though she’s naturally very strong woman, both mentally and physically, who would like some more self-determination. Most of the book, though, is one action scene after another as Isaac, Lena, and Isaac’s cute little pet fire spider, Smudge, race from one disaster to the next, battling vampires and giant automatons along the way. It was a little too much on the plot-based roller-coaster for me to love, but I enjoyed the ride a lot. The magic pulled from familiar books, as shown so beautifully on the cover, is pure geeky glee,as is Hines’s scientific classification of vampires as described by different authors. He even helpfully includes a bibliography at the end, where he shares which of the books cited in the story are real and which imaginary. If you’re in the mood for a fast and fun fantasy action adventure with a little romance thrown in, this is the book for you.