by: Jim C. Hines
This was a Christmas present from the same friend who recommended Year Zero. Luckily for him, I’ve read Hines before and was fairly confident I would enjoy it.
I ended up really liking it, which is good for my friend’s reputation. Libriomancer is a contemporary fantasy set in the modern-day Midwest. The main character, Isaac, is a libriomancer; that is, one able to use magic to create items from books. Isaac has a fondness for sci-fi and fantasy and he creates anything from blasters to healing herbs. He no longer practices magic, due to extenuating circumstances, but finds himself in the caught in the middle of escalating tensions between vampires, magicians, and the mysterious puppet master behind it all. The writing is good, the plot is well-paced, and the characters are likable.
I really enjoyed the world building in the novel, although Hines has some balance issues with too much exposition at some points and too little explanation at others. Not terrible, just noticeable. There’s a rather large number of side characters and even though I read this all in one sitting, I had a bit of trouble keeping them separate. A few of the less important ones weren’t developed enough to really make an impression on me.
The main character, Isaac, is intelligent and curious; he often asks questions about how things work that I would ask or hear while discussing a book with my friends. For the most part, I was able to follow him as he figured things out, and for the most part, it made sense within the book’s world. I did really enjoy seeing how he formulated plans and theories; his thought process is much like a research scientist’s and I had a few “of course!” moments, which was always fun! One of my favorite things was the way he referenced magical studies that had been done or bemoaned the lack of research available.
I don’t know how I feel about Lena, the supporting female character and love interest. She doesn’t feel very well-developed but at the same time, the reader is left with the impression that the underdeveloped-ness is an integral part of her nature and thus important to her character. (You’ll have to read the book for that to make any sense, I suppose.)
The book moves quickly and has a good deal of both action and detection. While it isn’t quite a mystery, Isaac does have to spend a great deal of time acting as a detective. It feels a little bit like Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden series – a lot of action and detective work in a short period of time, a good bit of destruction, and written in first person. It doesn’t feel like a retelling; certainly it’s not nearly as dark and the characters, while sharing some traits, bear little resemblance to each other. If you like the Harry Dresden series, though, I would recommend heading on over to Hines’ website and reading the first chapter of this book – you just might like it.
This story, as you might imagine, is peppered with references to books you’ve probably read or have heard of; there’s nothing esoteric or obscure. There are, of course, cult classic and geek culture references. It’s not full of, or even peppered with, humor, but the book doesn’t feel lacking because of it.
While for the most part this is a fairly light read, Hines works in a few scenes asking the reader to really contemplate the morality of the characters’ decisions. It adds a nice touch of depth to the story while not going so far as to ruin the feel of the adventure.
If you like modern-day fantasies with mystery and action or if you enjoyed Inkheart because you found the concept of using the books’ worlds fascinating, then I suggest this book for your reading pleasure. If you want an epic fantasy or something dark and gritty, then, sadly, perhaps this isn’t the book for you.