Before you get to the end of this review, you may wonder why I gave it four stars and why I will, ultimately, recommend this book, considering the fact that I will tell you I don’t like it. The thing is, I did enjoy reading Libriomancer, but the more I thought about it afterward, the creepier it got. While I don’t plan to continue the series, I don’t see why my hang-ups should keep you from enjoying it as well.
Okay, to the book, Batman.
Libriomancer’s premise is unique to me. I’m sure it has been done before, but I haven’t read anything like this. The idea is a type of magic that enables a gifted reader to physically reach into a book and pull out desired objects. This is libriomancy and it was discovered by Johannes Gutenberg himself (who, in real life, invented the first movable type printing press). Not only did he invent modern printing that changed the world, but in Libriomaner, he also invented a new kind of magic that allowed the very words we all read to literally become real. Of course, once that magic has been released into the world, Gutenberg had to invent a whole organization of ‘porters’ to keep things in order.
The story begins with Isaac Vainio, a discharged field porter who bent the rules one too many times, while he is cataloguing books into the porters special database that keeps track of weapons, fantastical species, and other objects that might one day make their way into our world. Just as he is about to end his day, his pet fire-spider starts to smoke. A sure sign that danger is nearby. He only has moments to clear the library before he’s attacked by a group of sparkly vampires: Sanguinarius meyerii (yup, from the Twilight series of books).
Despite being able to literally pull a sci-fi gun out of a book, he’s rusty and no match for the vampires. He’s rescued by a beautiful, sexy dryad who just happens to show up. She’s the badass in this book and she summarily dispatches the vampires with wooden bokkens (cool use of those practice swords!).
From then on, the action pretty much does not let up. Isaac and Lena, the sexy dryad, go from one porter house to another only to realize that someone is threatening the very foundations of the organization and may have killed Gutenberg as well (he’s more or less immortal). To save Lena’s lover, they end up in a vampire’s nest, but only get more entangled in what could be an earth-shattering mess. Soon they are hunting down not only vampires, but a wronged porter that is more powerful that the two of them put together.
A bit before mid-way through the book, there is a brief, dull moment when the romance in the story takes center stage, but overall this is a face paced, fun read.
Written in the first person narrative, Mr. Hines writing is smart and spare. This is Mr. Hines 8th novel and it shows. The prose is smooth and overall the pacing is just right for this genre. He explains enough for the reader to understand what is happening at just the right moment and in just the right amount.
So, why don’t I like it? Warning: spoilers abound…
- The romance. Are you kidding me? Okay, he made her chunky, but she oozes sex appeal and it is obvious Isaac is in lust with her from first sight (prior to the events of this book). The thing is if this was just a side issue, I could overlook it, but it is not. Lena the sexy nymph is a major character and her nature influences the book’s direction. I know that the author is trying to up-end stereotypes and make science-fiction and fantasy readers take a hard look at those stereotypes, but I am not the kind of genre-fan that needs that lesson taught to. I’d rather just see a normal woman (like Isaac is more or less normal) play a cool character in a science-fiction/fantasy novel (like Isaac gets to do some cool magic). Why do women always have to be the object of sex? No matter how much I might admire him for putting a spotlight on the genre’s failing, I believe Mr. Hines fails by allowing that light to dip into Lena’s cleavage.
- The villain. A disgraced porter who had his memories wiped, he subsequently gets his powers back after a terrible accident. And then what does he do to wreak havoc on the world? Self-publish a book. I am sorry. If that is not a dig at all the self-published authors out there, I don’t know what is. Not cool.
- Magic=Religion. Libriomancy relies of the collective belief in all readers of a particular text. And the very basis of this new type of magic comes from the Christian Bible. Since the story is set in our real world, and since the Holy Bible is one of the all time best sellers, it makes sense to Mr. Hines’ story to have it this way. But I really don’t need to see how strongly religion plays a role in our lives in the books I read for pleasure. I’ve got enough of reality to do that for me, thank you very much.
Like I said, though I enjoyed the read (a testament of Mr. Hines writing ability that I overlooked all the above while I read it because I just wanted to enjoy the ride), I feel like I’ve cheated on my husband or something.
Do I think you should read it? (shrugs)
You’ll just have to take a chance and try it for yourself.