Libriomancer, by Jim C Hines

Review published on June 12, 2014.Reviewed by sara garland

Nudge Reviewer Rating:

Isaac Vainio is a libriomancer. He has the ability to reach into books and create objects from their pages. Libriomancers usually have a specialty. Isaac’s is sci-fi. A little over two years ago, Isaac broke the rules. He was therefore taken out of the field and was essentially forbidden from using magic. Since his banishment, Isaac has worked in a library, secretly cataloguing books for their magical potential. So when he is attacked by three young vampires whilst at work, Isaac is surrounded by books that he could open and pull out all sorts of sci-fi weapons. But Isaac is rusty. The vampires believe Isaac has been killing their kind and are seeking revenge. He should have been a gonna, but Lena Greenwood arrives compelled to protect him.

Lena is a dryad, a tree nymph. She is a supernatural protector, somewhat Buffy styled, who uses both her physical power and that of her wooden samurai styled swords. Through their quest to find out who is behind these attacks a bond is formed. They find themselves on a personal journey, tested to the limit only to be placed in a juxtaposition, when trying to prevent worldwide war.

There is also Smudge a fire-spider that has been created and kept by Isaac. He will smoke or produce fire, when sensing danger. He offers a helpful early alert system, whilst also contributing as a form of cute, light hearted comical relief.

I was enthused by the scope and remit of the story building potential in this book and felt that both the approach and storyline offered something fresh and innovative. As such I was really looking forward to reading it. But I found it a really unusual read – very much a book of two halves.

To this end it has been quite hard to review and I have given it much consideration as I reading through it. The first part of the book was a very odd read. The language and style of the writing was very simple as if it was a book aimed at young people, even though this book is intended for adult readership. Character development was slow and initially I found it hard to connect and like any of them. Isaac the main character was somewhat insipid and uninspiring. The connection that was meant to develop between him and Lena seemed unlikely. They both came across as very young, trying to be tough and grown up in the presence of adults, but yet not convincingly so. Isaac’s character was essentially a geek and perhaps Hines was working too hard to make him so, but it made it hard for me to connect with the main character.

The initial fight scenes with the vampires did not feel realistic. In reality I don’t think Isaac or Lena should have survived any such fights. There was an initial over-reliance on technical information about magic, vampires and the supernatural, which although was meant to be informative, hindered the story’s ability to get into its flow.

However the adventure aspects of the second part of the book took it into different territory. The characters became much more three dimensional and interesting. There were innovative, cerebral, sub diversions, being worked through using intense problem-solving skills, magic and literally inspired sub plots. The complexity of the connections made became apparent and were impressive and intelligent. There were lots of twists and turns, impossible to pre-empt with the leaps that could be made using the fantastical of libriomancy.

The characters become more engaging and easier to connect with as they developed through the book. The pace picked up more as did the tension. I began to respect the story for its complicated and layered plot. There were many good book references interwoven into the script, which many a book lover will likely enjoy. The ending did seem to take a long while to get there, but was enjoyable none the less

So where does this leave me? Still with mixed views I think is the honest answer. It took tenacity for me to keep going with the first part of the book. Really and truly I wanted to abandon it, which is quite unusual for me. Once the story got into its groove, I was able to appreciate it and give its due merit. Would I want to read the next story? I don’t feel particularly inclined to. This suggests it just wasn’t the book for me. But I still think there will be people that will enjoy it. How quickly others however get into the midst of the story might hold the key to its readership success or failure.

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Unnatural Creatures, by Neil Gaiman

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