Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I like Jim Hines as a person. Not because I've met him, but he seems affable enough from what I've read of his blog and twitter. I like a lot of what he has to say, which is why I seek out his books to read. Luckily, he is also a creative and entertaining writer. I hate it when I have to pretend to like someone's books just because I like the person. None of that for Mr. Hines.
Libriomancer is Hines's foray into urban fantasy, after his two light epic fantasy series. Urban fantasy risks oversaturation, at this point, because so many aspects of it have been done. So far, though, I haven't seen an urban fantasy world with book-based magic set in Michigan's upper peninsula. That's new.
Our hero, Isaac Vanio, was taken off field duty and thrown into a cataloging position at a library. He pretends to be a real librarian, but was issued equipment by his real employer to inventory newly published books as they come in. Isaac has the ability to reach into books to materialize anything in its pages. The object has to be able to fit through an area the size of the book, and it can't be from a book that was locked away for humanity's protection. (Time travel devices, for instance, are strictly forbidden, and Hines uses this to explain why the Time Turner vanished from the later Harry Potter books.)
On a day like any other, Isaac is set upon by sparkling vampires, and dragged into a mystery about who killed his mentor, and several other libriomancers. Evidence points to the founder of libriomancy, but Isaac is unwilling to accept the easy answer.
Isaac is helped in his quest by Lena Greenwood, a dryad. Magical creatures like her are unwelcome in the society governing Isaac's magic, but she doesn't hold that against Isaac. She sought him out as her mate, because her nature is to obey her lover's wishes, and her previous love may have been compromised by vampires. Isaac nobly refrains from taking advantage, though he is tempted. Lena is just his type, and only uncertainty about Lena's free will holds him back.
Despite his wise choice in this arena, Isaac isn't always likable. He has a tendency toward smugness, and his desire to do things his own way gets him in trouble more than once.
While Isaac doesn't turn out to be the most powerful libriomancer, ever, or anything, he does get a power boost within this book. Some of the rules seem to be established just to let Isaac break them. It can be hard to follow, though it does keep the story from becoming predictable.
In the end, I found this a light, enjoyable read, with plenty of surprises throughout. Even if the story had been mediocre, and it wasn't, I'd have to give it kudos for how it handled the love triangle. There's plenty of potential for complications in future books, but that's the first time I've seen that resolution in a traditionally published book.
I listened to this book on audio, narrated by Brian Eslik. He had the geeky voice down for Isaac, and his accents were good. He had a nice range of other voices to fall back on. Though, there were times when Isaac came across as whinier than I think he was written, because of the delivery. Also, his pronunciation of "automaton" drove me up a wall. Otherwise, though, his reading was good. If I ever pick up a print copy of the book, I'm sure I'll hear the narrator in his voice.
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