Book review: “Libriomancer” by Jim Hines (spoilers ahoy!)

It’s not often that a book makes me laugh out loud, but there’s something about Jim C. Hines’ Libriomancer that got me from the beginning. The official description:

Isaac Vainio is a Libriomancer, a member of the secret organization founded five centuries ago by Johannes Gutenberg. Libriomancers are gifted with the ability to magically reach into books and draw forth objects. When Isaac is attacked by vampires that leaked from the pages of books into our world, he barely manages to escape. To his horror, he discovers that vampires have been attacking other magic-users as well, and Gutenberg has been kidnapped.

With the help of a motorcycle-riding dryad who packs a pair of oak cudgels, Isaac finds himself hunting the unknown dark power that has been manipulating humans and vampires alike. And his search will uncover dangerous secrets about Libriomancy, Gutenberg, and the history of magic.

At its heart, Libriomancer is a love letter to every bookworm who ever imagined reaching into their favorite book and becoming part of the story. It’s funny, sad, and exciting all at once.

My overall rating: 4.5/5 stars.


The good:

  • Jim Hines succeeds in creating a magical world with logical rules – definitely not the easiest of tasks. Libriomancy’s powers and limitations make sense! Pulling out Aladdin’s lamp is a bad idea? There’s an explanation why. Can’t pull a Delorean out of a book? There’s an explanation for that too. I love it!
  • I liked the main cast. Our main protagonist is Isaac Vainio, a libriomancer who failed his field test and is now stuck working as a librarian in Michigan, cataloging potentially dangerous books. Every libriomancer has a specialty and Isaac Vainio gets extra love from me for being a science fiction and fantasy geek through and through. Case in point: he defeats a vampire using a glowing sword that makes a humming sound that he pulled out of a book with hot desert air. Even more bonus points: he’s a Firefly and Doctor Who fanboy! We also Leena, a dryad with badass skills with fighting sticks, and Smudge the fire spider.
  • It’s funny! The story is told from Isaac’s point of view and I found his voice funny. The vampires who attack Isaac in the library are Sanguinus Meyerii AKA sparklers, brought to life by – you guessed it! – Stephenie Meyer. These vamps have none of the original vampire weaknesses – sunlight, garlic, or stakes to the heart – because that’s how they were written. Vampires are now, in the words of Isaac, “angsty, sexy superheroes”.
  • The action is fast-paced. There’s always something happening – from gatecrashing the vampire’s hideout, to saving Johannes Gutenberg, to donning a mechanical suit and fighting other robots on the moon.
  • I liked how Isaac questions whether entering a relationship with Lena is morally permissible, considering that she’s hardwired to be a subservient sex slave.
  • Isaac learning more about the Porters and their shady history is another highlight for me. He questions their authority and ultimately learns to decide things for himself.

The bad (this was tough to write):

  • Lots and lots of expository dialogue between Isaac and Lena. I’m willing to forgive this for the first book in the series.
  • I have mixed feelings about Lena and how the male/female/female relationship with Isaac and Dr. Shah came about. It would be okay if Issac and Dr. Shah were attracted to each other and expressed an interest in being part of a three-way relationship, but this threesome is all about Lena and what Lena wants. Someone is going to get hurt eventually and it won’t be pretty.

All in all, Libriomancer is a great book and a great start to the Magic ex Libris series. I’m looking forward to seeing Isaac whip more paperbacks out of his long brown trench coat. And yes, the healing book should definitely be in the front pocket.

  • Reading level: Ages 18 and up
  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: DAW Hardcover; 1 edition (August 7, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0756407397
  • ISBN-13: 978-0756407391

Has anyone here read it too? How was it? 🙂

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