Pairs Well With:
Begin with a Mind Eraser; a simple shot that quickly rushes to the brain, swirling the reader in the vodka and coffee liquor fueled excitement, much like the not so subtle opening of this novel. Then, proceed to partake of a Long Island Iced Tea (this reader prefers the Black Widow variation); a lovely catch-all drink that’s easy enough to knock back, and pretty much has whatever the bartender decides to throw together in a glass (much like the author’s choice in including literally everything possible in this novel).
Genre: Fantasy/Science Fiction
Author: Jim C. Hines
Rating: 3 Out Of 5 Shots
Issac is a library clerk, a science fiction fan boy, and lives in the same house he grew up in. Oh, and he just so happens to be a Libriomancer; an individual capable of reaching into books and plucking out objects—or even living things—from the pages. While working in a local library in the Upper Peninsula of Wisconsin, a gang of vampires snares him in broad daylight to interrogate him; asking him why he and his kind are hunting the vampires. Saved by a dryad named Lena, Issac and his new friend must travel around the state of Wisconsin, seeking out answers as to why Libriomancers are being killed, what is causing the disappearance of vampires, and what the first Libriomancer, Herr Gutenberg, has to do with it.
In short, this was a fun read. Not perfect in the slightest, but light and fun enough that the plot holes were easy to ignore (and boy were there a lot of them). While often eye roll worthy in regards to the clunky dialogue and profuse interjection of Progressive talking points, these moments pass without too much time wasted, and the reader is able to swing back into the fast paced, often funny, story that glorifies the magic of books.
I could tell early on that this book was essentially the author’s love note to the world of books. The attention given to each of the books mentioned (most are real and intrigued me enough to add to my TBR pile) was authentic, and whenever a library or bookstore was mentioned, you could feel the love the author had for those bound bits of written magic. Certainly, books were the “star in the spotlight”; with the main character having heaping pockets full of them at any given time, or noting the distress Isaac felt when seeing a book be ruined.
I also thought it interesting that each Libriomancer had “specialties,” so to speak, when it came to utilizing their preferred books. Isaac is fond of sci-fi, so he carries tons of them around and cranks out laser guns like no one’s business. Still others prefer historical novels, fantasy, even music (though I’m not sure how that constitutes as Libriomancy).
Several of the side characters were amusing (I particularly loved the trailer park vampire and his mutt), and the pacing of the novel was such that it never felt like a particularly long read. The humor is of the fun, friend bashing variety, and you can feel an appreciation for the state of Michigan in the scenery and description of the locales.
My goodness, these characters were flat. Lena the dryad, a supposedly sensual character, was unbelievably forgettable; as thin as the paper her character was written on. The hero of the story, Isaac, was a little more interesting, but only by a fraction of a percentage. I was never interested in learning more about him, nor what his emotions were behind any endeavor he underwent. The other characters (and there are many) were equally as forgettable (honestly, I couldn’t remember the main character’s name after I had literally just put down the book).
The action scenes are messy, which is kind of fun, but I never felt like there were any stakes involved. Thus, I didn’t care about the outcome. Progressive politics made their way not so subtly into the text, with ridiculous attention being brought back to the fact that the dryad is bisexual (it seemed like we were reminded of it at least twice, every chapter, much like a Lilly Singh comedy special), and then a thumbs up given to a polygamous relationship built exclusively on satisfying the sexual desires of a single character (yep, the exact same character we aren’t supposed to think of merely as a sexual object…). We’re also preached at to remember that: women aren’t sex objects (though that’s literally all the dryad is); autistic individuals should be respected and can have normal lives (duh); that body shaming people is wrong, yadda yadda yadda.
And then, there’s the magic system (I’m skipping over the fact that in the final battle, Isaac is described as taking out only one of three enemies, but the other two are mystically nowhere to be seen at the end).
Goodness gracious! For the amount of time Mr. Hines spends gushing about how awesome books are (and I’m behind that sentiment 100%), the number of loose ends in his magic system is confounding. Is Libriomancy a thing anyone can learn, or is it inherent? I thought it was the latter, but then Gutenberg is revealed to have invented the whole thing, and suddenly other folks are able to do it. How is that?
How are vampires able to exist outside of the books if only small, booksized objects can be removed from the books?
Is the charring of the books a Libriomancer uses like the “Number of Uses Left” indicator on an asthmatic inhaler? Can normal people see the charring of a book?
I could go on and on and on (and on… and on…), but I believe my point has been made.
This is by no stretch of the imagination a perfect, or even well written book.
Corking the Bottle:
However! It was amusing enough that I finished it, and quite happily, I might add.
Are the character’s shallow? Yes, but so are so many of the characters in shows like NCIS and CSI, and y’all know you still love them. Are there sometimes baffling omissions of exposition in regards to the magic system? Indeed, but one can hope such threads are tied off in the following books (yes, it’s a series). Is there any real reason why there is a fire spider in this story, except to serve as a deus ex machina when the plot gets fuzzy? Probably not, but who doesn’t love cutesy animal companions?
But for all it’s flaws, it was still fun to read.
Because—to risk repeating my sentiment above—it is a love letter to books. The fact that books are so powerful in this novel reflects my feelings about books in the real world. It’s awesome to see an author gush about books. On almost every page, there is at least some mention of how amazing books are! It’s phantastic!
So, if you’re looking for a quick weekend read that won’t leave you emotionally drained, but backs up your belief that books are the greatest things in existence, this is certainly something I can recommend.
The adventure continues in the next book, Codex Born. Comment below if you’d like us to review more books from this series!