Libriomancer (Magic Ex Libris 01) by Jim C. Hines


Isaac Vainio has spent the past two years working at the Copper River Library in northern Michigan, secretly cataloguing books for their magical potential, but forbidden from using that magic himself . . . except for emergencies. Emergencies like a trio of young vampires who believe Isaac has been killing their kind, and intend to return the favor.

Isaac is a libriomancer, brilliant but undisciplined, with the ability to reach into books and create objects from their pages. And attacking a libriomancer in his own library is never a good idea.

Along with a neurotic fire-spider named Smudge, Isaac and Lena set out to find and stop whoever is behind the attacks. But things are worse than Isaac imagined. An unknown killer of unimaginable power has been torturing and murdering humans and vampires alike. And Gutenberg, now more than six hundred years old, has disappeared. If Isaac is to have any hope of preventing that war, he will have to truly master the magic of libriomancy.

Assuming he doesn’t lose control and wipe himself from existence first.

A young white man with dark hari is pulling a space weapon out of a book. There are full bookshelfs as well as piles of books in the background. Title: Libriomancer. Author: Jim C. Hines. It’s a detective story where the reader learns the clues as the narrator does and jumps to the next logical conclusion in step with him. The aim is to find the killer but also learn as much as possible about the world of libriomancy. There are other ways to use magic than reaching into a book and pulling out disruptors or healing potions, but none of them speak quite as keenly to any book lover, which the author quite clearly is.

Librarians are the real heroes of this world. But in the book they also have magic, and what’s better than a librarian has magic? A fire-spider of course. A spider that sets things on fire near books? Tricky but handy too, and if I hadn’t set my heart on getting a kitten I’d take Smudge.

Isaac Vainio—distracting name to a Finn—is a librarian and a retired libriomancer who has a little eight-legged friend to remind him of the good old days. Then three Sanguinarius Meyerii walk into his library and make life interesting again. A helpful dryad saves Isaac from the vampires and they set out to do some research. There are books to be read, experts to talk to, and a couple old libriomancers to find.

One of the things I loved was that magic had consequences, both big and small. It’s very taxing to use magic and manipulate books. Even using a healing potion to save himself from a life-threatening can leave a libriomancer exhausted and starved without any appetite. Libriomancy also degrades books and when the charring gets bad enough the magic can become erratic and dangerous.

I also liked how the women were written. The dryad mentioned above, Lena Greenwood, isn’t the only kick-ass female character and there are two other women who feel as real as anyone can be viewed through the male first person voice. Doctor Nidhi Shah is a psychiatrist who ended Isaac’s libriomancer career and Nicole Pallas is a Regional Master of Porters. They’re both strong and vulnerable in their own way without being fantasy sex objects. It doesn’t mean they’re not sexy, just that their sexuality doesn’t define them.

There are countless references to other books, real and fictional, that add depth to the story. Sometimes it’s a layer of humour and sometimes it’s a layer of existentialism. It isn’t necessary to have read all the books mentioned but knowing the stories helps. Using Libriomancer as a recommendations list can get expensive.

Now, go read it. The sooner you do it, the sooner a real libriomancer out there somewhere can get his or her own Smudge.

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6 Responses to Libriomancer (Magic Ex Libris 01) by Jim C. Hines

  1. xaurianx says:

    Great review, I have wanted to read this author for a whole now, and you certainly push me to try sooner.

  2. blodeuedd says:

    I have been meaning to try a Hines book

  3. I really do want to read that book. Unfortunately my library would never buy a book just for my convenience. Or anybody’s convenience.

    • rameau says:

      Last year, almost all my suggestions went through. This year… still waiting. I do hope you get to read it.

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