I almost didn’t read this book. It’s cover is terrible. I know one shouldn’t judge and all that, but there are so many books and such little time, you’ve got to have a filtering mechanism. But then… it is called Libriomancer and libris (at the risk of sounding like Pooh Bear), means books. Oh, and libraries.
So I figured I might at least read the back cover: ‘Gutenberg, secret societies, magic in books, reaching into books and drawing forth objects’. That sounds bloody great! It also sounds like Polly Shulman’s Grimm Legacy books, which I loved. Behind the tacky, off-putting cover lurked the germ of brilliant idea.
So I read it.
I was right. Libriomancer is bloody great. OK – it’s not aiming for literary greatness, but it is hoping to deliver a fun, action-packed and slightly silly story. Which it does, perfectly. Indeed behind the light veneer is some pretty scholarly stuff. You can’t write something based on other works of fiction like this without knowing your texts inside out. One might almost have to qualify as a Libriomancer.
Isaac Vainio is a disgraced libriomancer. He’s not meant to practice any more, but when vampires turn up on your doorstep and try to kill you, it’s probably time to stop following orders. Rescued by a plucky dryad, he tries to piece together what is going on. Isaac embarks on an adventure that explores many of SFFs common tropes; pokes fun at them, tinkers with them, and uses them to build something original, whilst managing to make you think about the themes underpinning whole subsections of the genre.
There’s some clever stuff here. A classification system for vampires, all based on the many works of bloodsucking fiction. The newer ones are harder to kill, exemplifying the theory put forward in Scream 2 that each iteration has got to be bigger, nastier, scarier and harder to kill. There’s a gentle examination of the role of women in genre fiction. A hot topic right now. Hines shows how absurd female characters have been in the past, and what they might be like if they were real people.
The possibilities of things that could be brought into the real world through the pages of fiction are endless, and Hines has some loose and vaguely sensible reasons for why you can’t bring through Superman or the One Ring. I have no idea whether the rules stack up to close scrutiny, but they worked well enough to keep me interested and maintain a logical consistency. The shadowy league of libriomancers, the ‘Porters’ has enough revealed about them to make them intriguing whilst keeping the reader hanging out for more.
This is a series that could run and run. The overall plot is a little daft, but who cares? It’s a fun book and it pays homage to books and the people who love them. I would happily spend more hours in the company of Isaac Vainio and the fevered imagination of Jim C Hines. Which is lucky as book 2 Codex Born is available now.
Many Thanks to the team at Del Rey for sending me a copy of this book.