BOOK REVIEW: Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines
The pen may be mightier than the sword, but is the book mightier than the vampire? Yes, it seems, but only if the book is wielded by a libriomancer.
Libriomancer, by Jim C. Hines, is the first book in a new series about a secret organization whose members can magically pull artifacts from books. Isaac Vainio, a libriomancer relegated to desk duty after an act of magical indiscretion, returns to the front lines when book-born vampires begin attacking libriomancers. Isaac has to learn why the vampires are attacking, find the libriomancers' missing leader, all the while sorting out his feelings for his attractive dryad sidekick, Lena.
Anyone who's ever fallen under the spell of a good book will be attracted to this story's premise: the inherent magic of all books bent to the reader's will. Unfortunately, the execution of that idea falls a bit flat. Action scenes are often slowed down by Isaac having to search for a specific page in each novel to find his artifacts. And while Isaac can produce anything from a sonic screwdriver to Excalibur, he starts out his battles armed only with a stack of novels and a many-pocketed coat, which make for underwhelming weapons.
As for Isaac himself, he's passionate about two things: books and magic. Beyond that, there's not much to this character. Besides a fondness for science fiction, we don't learn anything about Isaac that is not connected to his life as a libriomancer. Yes he's a "good guy," but a generic one, and three hundred pages fail to flesh out this character in any meaningful way.
Oddly, the most interesting character is one who is absent for much of the story—Johannes Gutenberg, head libriomancer. During Isaac's search for Gutenberg, a picture emerges of a man who is ruthless, untrustworthy, and who possesses way more magical power than he's ever let on. Seeing more of Gutenberg and his machinations might just be this series' saving grace.
In addition to the immediate threat posed by the vampires, we're also introduced to an obligatory 'great evil' that is the basis for the long-term series arc. But all we really learn is that there's a thing, it's bad, and we should be worried. The nature of the threat posed by this evil force is so vague that, taken on it's own, it hardly makes a compelling reason for further reading.
Libriomancer has some fun moments, many of them having to do with Isaac's quirky pet fire spider (he bursts into flames when he's stressed), but overall it's pretty forgettable. Grab a copy if you've got a long plane ride ahead of you but, by the time you touch down, you'll be looking for the nearest bookstore.