Rediscover the Magic of Books With Libriomancer


Jim C. Hines - LibriomancerJim C. Hines - Libriomancer

Image: DAW Books

Here’s what you get in the first scene of Jim C. Hines’ Libriomancer: vampires classified as “Meyerii” battling a bokken-toting dryad, a pet fire-spider, and a guy armed with a Star Trek-style disruptor ray.

And it only gets better from there.

Hines, who tackled the typical dungeon adventure from a new point of view in his Jig the Goblin series, and demolished damsels-in-distress tropes with his Princess books, kicks off his Magic Ex Libris urban fantasy series with a really entertaining opener in Libriomancer

Here’s the story: Books are magic, and libriomancers like Hines’ protagonist Isaac Vainio have the ability to reach into the pages and draw forth objects, monsters, and – though there are consequences (aren’t there always?) – even characters. Isaac’s also a member of the Porters, the secret organization founded by the original libriomancer himself, Johannes Gutenberg. The Porters work to keep things in balance, “locking” certain books – can you say One Ring? – and dealing with the occasional unpleasant escapees from the pages.

As Vainio narrates following that aforementioned fight:

If I hadn’t been two years out of practice, I would have had something better than a ray gun waiting for them. Back in the days of Dracula, humans had a fighting chance against the undead. But the more they evolved from monsters into angsty, sexy superheroes, the more the odds of a human being surviving an encounter with an angry vampire shrank to nothing.

The Porter-hunting vampires turn out to be only a hint of a much larger plot and darker force at work. Isaac, the dryad Lena Greenwood, and the fire-spider Smudge lead the efforts to uncover the mystery.

With Libriomancer, Hines succeeds on multiple levels.

It works as a heartfelt fan letter to books and storytelling, particularly science fiction and fantasy, giving a sort of reality to all those daydreams you had about flicking a lightsaber to life, or feeling the weight of Glamdring in your grasp.

As I began to figure out how to deliberately tap into that belief and love of the story, I had gone a little bit overboard. I almost flunked my senior year of high school, being too busy collecting things like a sonic screwdriver (which I had never figured out how to use), a crystal ball from L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, an impressive array of swords, and the winged sandals of Hermes himself.

And while all that makes for fun reading, Libriomancer is much more than a book full of geek-lit shout-outs. To keep the power of libriomancy manageable within the framework of the story – he discussed this in a GeekDad interview – Hines has created a rich backstory and mythology that weaves history and magic and science fiction across centuries, between cultures, and around the globe.

Since Hines’ previous books are all firmly in the fantasy genre, I found the present-day Michigan setting of Libriomancer jarring at first, but the story is so engaging that it wasn’t long before cellphones and machine guns felt natural alongside golem-like automatons and shrinking potions.

Even with its big-picture ambition – Hines has plans for a five-book Magic Ex Libris arc – Libriomancer remains an incredibly readable story that’s straightforward without being predictable, and action-packed without being rushed. The main and supporting characters alike have complex and chaotic relationships and histories, and I look forward to seeing these unfold further in the books to come.

Disclosure: DAW Books provided a copy of Libriomancer for this review.


Liked it? Take a second to support GeekDad and GeekMom on Patreon!