Review: Libriomancer by Jim C Hines

This is the first book in a new series called Magic Ex Libris from Jim C Hines. Jim is the man behind such hilarious and insightful gems as: Striking a Pose, Posing Like a Man, and the Baby Got Books parody. He’s also brought us some serious and thoughtful posts, such as his recent Sexual Harassment Policy. Libriomancer was published on August 7th from DAW.

My review of this book contains spoilers for the romantic resolution of the plot. I will try to white them out so that you can read the review without spoiling any part of the end, but you do continue to read at your own risk. The formatting probably will NOT transfer over to RSS feeds of this review, so if you’re reading via RSS and do not want to be spoiled, I suggest you not read past the “SPOILER WARNING” below. 

The Blurb

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. . . .[Goodreads]

The Review

If you love me at all, you will find a way to read this book. You will go right now to Amazon, or one of your local (or not local) indies, or to your local library and get this book.

If you don’t love me (and why don’t you?), but you do love books and reading, then you still need to read this book. I know the cover’s kind of awful, but please ignore that. You can get it in hardcover and take the dust jacket off, or just buy it in digital format. That solves this book’s only real problem!

You see, Isaac Vainio has a love affair with books, with story. I’ll show you.

I fantasized about what I would do if I were to ever develop superpowers. … Some children outgrew such things as they grew up. My daydreams had simply grown more complex. … Imagine spending your whole life yearning for that kind of magic, only to discover it was real.

That’s from chapter 2 of the book, and I’ve taken the liberty of leaving out longer passages by way of those handy ellipses. If you read that quote and your heart seizes up with a wild longing… then you need to trust me and read this book.

Sure, this book isn’t perfect. What one is? Isaac is not a perfect hero. He’s stubborn and occasionally not very bright. The basic plot of “let’s defeat the evil vampires” has surely been overdone in recent times. Ah, but the execution! Hines gets bonus points for the invention of the term “Meyerii vampires”. (They sparkle.)

This book has dryads, vampires, space ray guns, a nervous fire spider, steampunk-y golem automatons, a specifically described “laser sword” from a very popular world in a galaxy far, far away, and a freaking BIBLIOGRAPHY in the back! It also has a guy that can pull things out of freaking books, guys. If that doesn’t make you excited to read it, then you haven’t been reading since childhood and therefore I pity you.

Here’s another quote directly from Isaac speaking that I highlighted to convince you:

“Even before I learned what I was, books were my escape from the world. This place… bookstores, libraries… they’re the closest thing I have to a church.”

I’ve got chills, guys, seriously.

In this next bit, I’m going to address some low-star reviews I’ve seen on Goodreads. This bit contains mild spoilers. 

In reading some of the reviews over at Goodreads, I’ve noticed that some people find the romance plot a big squicky. Isaac’s “sidekick” is a dryad (wood nymph) from a(n invented) book. She can’t fight her nature as written, and her nature is to be a willing sex slave to whichever person she’s “bonded” with. Her female psychologist partner has been kidnapped so she goes to Isaac for help. Funnily enough, it seems to me that most people (those who are perturbed at all) are bothered less by the notion that this is a thinking, feeling woman who, by her very nature, can not say no then they are by the somewhat unconventional resolution of the love-triangle.

What does it tell you about people that a bisexual element is more disturbing to them than the idea of a woman who has no choice – ever – but to submit to her partner’s will? I myself think that this reaction is exactly the reason that Hines included it.

SPOILER WARNING! Highlight to read text. 

To be fair, most of the reviewers seemed to have a problem with the resolution of this love triangle, and not necessarily the lesbian part of it. Which is: all parties involved reach an agreement to NOT resolve the triangle. Specifically, that Lena (the dryad) would continue to date BOTH Isaac and her psychologist girlfriend. Some people read into this resolution a potential for three-way sex. I, personally, don’t see that in the text. I see a bisexual woman who has chosen to date both a man and a woman, separately. It’s not the first time in history that someone has decided to date two people at the same time. It’s not even the first time a woman has done it. I don’t get what these people have a problem with, honestly. Is it homophobia or just prudishness? Neither? Both? I can’t really say. 

Do I personally think that this romantic decision can lead to a lot of heartache for all involved? Yep. My personal belief is that these things only end badly. But it’s a book, for the love of pages! Part of the greatness of books is that we can use these fictional worlds to explore things and themes that make us uncomfortable. I loved this book. I’m looking forward to reading more.

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