Codex Born by Jim C. Hines
(Description nicked from B&N.com.)
“Five hundred years ago, Johannes Gutenberg discovered the art of libriomancy, allowing him to reach into books to create things from their pages. Gutenberg’s power brought him many enemies, and some of those enemies have waited centuries for revenge. Revenge which begins with the brutal slaughter of a wendigo in the northern Michigan town of Tamarack, a long-established werewolf territory.
Libriomancer Isaac Vainio is part of Die Zwelf Portenære, better known as the Porters, the organization founded by Gutenberg to protect the world from magical threats. Isaac is called in to investigate the killing, along with Porter psychiatrist Nidhi Shah and their dryad bodyguard and lover, Lena Greenwood. Born decades ago from the pages of a pulp fantasy novel, Lena was created to be the ultimate fantasy woman, strong and deadly, but shaped by the needs and desires of her companions. Her powers are unique, and Gutenberg’s enemies hope to use those powers for themselves. But their plan could unleash a far darker evil.”
One of the things that I like most about Hines’ series is that the author doesn’t take the easy way through his narratives. In this case, his novel begins with a newly introduced character completely circumventing all the laws that Isaac believes govern magic—the very laws that readers were first shown just one book ago. The strictures that Hines imposed on his magic system could have made things difficult, but he wasn’t afraid to throw all that on its metaphoric ear as soon as possible. I also like that his main characters are involved in a non-traditional relationship. The author portrays this without drama, but also without hiding the fact that such relationships have their challenges.
Speaking of those magical laws, I appreciated that the story made me think about the “conflict” between printed books and e-books. At the novel’s beginning, a young girl shows her ability to pull objects from an e-reader, something which supposedly can’t be done. It causes Isaac to think about the difference between print and digital and the foundations of belief engendered by each. Given the current debate surrounding all aspects of the two formats, the questions in this book are timely and interesting.
Part of this novel is devoted to chronicling Lena’s backstory. Each chapter begins with a snippet from her life, starting with her first memories of our world and ending with the events that closed out the first novel. While this gives a lot of information about her life and how she got where she is, her personality growth is still mostly happening in the “present” of the novels. Having two lovers gives her the freedom (and sometimes the necessity) to choose to please one over the other; therefore, she has an opportunity to break the confines of her magical nature and think for herself for the first time.
This series is a lot of fun to read. There are certainly serious parts and lots of action and things being destroyed, but Hines never loses that touch of the light-hearted that makes this story so enjoyable. Isaac reminds me of a more bookish version of Harry Dresden, full of smart-aleck comebacks and unconventional problem-solving skills. It doesn’t hurt that he’s a science fiction and fantasy geek as well. He’s one of those fictional characters that I really wish I could chat with over a drink, because I’m sure the conversation would be fascinating.
Hines has created a world that I’m sure any bibliophile would love to live in, where that which lives in our imaginations could possibly exist in reality. Codex Born is a fun adventure where literature jumps off the page, a geek’s fantasy of monsters and magic made manifest.
Also by this author: Libriomancer