One of my surprise best reads of the year is Libriomancer by Jim C Hines. A book with such a beguiling premise that it demanded to be read. The idea that there is a coven of magicians who can pull all manner of stuff out from between the covers of a book propelled Libriomancer to the top of my to-be-read pile. Beneath the pulpy cover, vampires and lusty dryads was an intricately conceived and well executed urban fantasy that had considerable depth. It is pretty much a must read for anybody who loves the genre. Libriomancer didn’t just lazily reference its influences, it embedded them in the story and enhanced their myths.
So how do you follow that? Well it’s pretty tricky. Libriomancer is stuffed full of innovation, but the mechanics of libriomancy are now pretty much established, and surely all the best fictional references were in the first novel? What would a second book have to offer? The answer is, ‘Pretty much the same as the first’. This story doesn’t offer much on top of Libriomancer in terms of fresh concepts, so it doesn’t have the wow-factor of book 1. Indeed some of the embellishments don’t quite work. It’s a common problem in this type of storytelling. In order to make an original premise more convincing, there are often constraints put in place. When an author finds that it’s not just his characters bound by the constraints, but subsequent stories too, they bend the rules to allow more interesting things to happen. Invariably they don’t quite work. Having said that, whilst a couple of Isaac Vanio’s new skills jarred, they certainly didn’t spoil the party
Codex Born has story and character a plenty. There is an irreverent vein of humour running through it, and there is still a reverence retained for books and storytelling. Here vampires are replaced by werewolves (which makes you wonder if zombies are next). I’ve never been a huge fan of lycanthrope stories, so some of the references were lost on me. The central plot once again revolves around dryad Lena Greenwood and her being a living thing that was once fictional.
As in the first book there are thrills, spills and literary shenanigans. Whilst Codex Born doesn’t elevate the series, it certainly does it no detriment. It’s another entertaining novel written in the same vein as the first; magical high jinx for library lovers. I look forward to volume three.
Many Thanks to the team at Del Rey for sending me a copy of this book.