Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines

Libriomancer: (Magic Ex Libris Book 1)
To purchase this title, click the title image.

(Description nicked from B&N.com.)

“Isaac Vainio is a Libriomancer, a member of the secret organization founded five centuries ago by Johannes Gutenberg.  Libriomancers are gifted with the ability to magically reach into books and draw forth objects. When Isaac is attacked by vampires that leaked from the pages of books into our world, he barely manages to escape. To his horror he discovers that vampires have been attacking other magic-users as well, and Gutenberg has been kidnapped.

With the help of a motorcycle-riding dryad who packs a pair of oak cudgels, Isaac finds himself hunting the unknown dark power that has been manipulating humans and vampires alike. And his search will uncover dangerous secrets about Libriomancy, Gutenberg, and the history of magic. . . .”

If you’re an avid reader like me, you have to love a book about the magic of books.  Who hasn’t secretly dreamed of having a laser pistol or a cool sword?  Think of how neat it would be to be able to pull one from the pages of your favorite story!  That’s just what libriomancers in this series do: they can manifest objects out of books.  So really, anything that you can imagine can be brought into being.

Wisely, the author has imposed some pretty hard and fast limits on what can and can’t be done with this power.  If he had just let people run around pulling anything they wanted from fiction, the story could rapidly degenerate into a war of escalation.  Instead, Hines has carefully created the rules for this magic: no bringing through that can’t fit through an opening the size of the book itself; no bringing people through; and the most dangerous objects are in books “locked” with magic.  Also, on the “all magic has  a price” side of the rules, using too much libriomancy opens you to possession by the characters in the books.  I definitely appreciate how much thought went into this magic system.

Not only are the rules of magic well delineated, but the foundations of that magic and the backstory of its creation is just as in-depth.  I loved that Johannes Gutenberg is the progenitor of libriomancy, and it’s an interesting twist to have to wonder what his aims are in his strict controls of the power.  By the end of the book, I found myself questioning his motives, but not necessarily mistrusting him.  I do hope that he shows up more in future novels, as he seems like a character that would be loads of fun to read about.

I found myself really liking Isaac.  He tries hard to do the right thing, and has the experience of what happens when you do the wrong thing.  He’s a genuinely likeable guy, one that I’d like to be able to have a conversation with.  He’s also written as a science fiction and fantasy geek, which fits right in with the tone of the story and (given the likely readers of this book) makes him even easier to identify with.  Isaac is kind of a wish fulfillment character, I think, but doesn’t wander into Gary Stu territory.  He isn’t all powerful and isn’t infallible. I kind of took Isaac and his powers as a metaphor for how deeply we can get into a book that really grabs our attention.  It gives a whole new meaning to getting lost in a good book!

This is the first book by Hines that I’ve read, and I must say, I like his writing style.  It’s light without going all the way into humor and turning the book into a comedy, and it doesn’t skimp on the peril and dark moments.  The magic system is well thought out and Isaac is a strong and likeable main character.  It’s a recipe for success, and Libriomancer is indeed a gourmet dish of fantasy fiction.

Also by this author: Codex Born

This review appeared on Owlcat Mountain on May 31, 2013.

Series: Magic Ex Libris
ISBN: 9780756407391
Publisher: DAW
Page Count: 400
Publication Date: August 7, 2012
Acquired: Provided by the publisher
Author Website
Read an excerpt