Book Review: Libriomancer by Jim C Hines

Posted August 7, 2019 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 4 Comments

Book Review: Libriomancer  by Jim C Hines

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Libriomancer by Jim C Hines
Genres: Paranormal Fantasy, Mystery
Published by DAW Books on August 7, 2012
Pages: 321
Format: eBook
Source: the library

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First in the Magic ex Libris paranormal fantasy series and revolving around Isaac Vainio, an ex-libriomancer, in Copper River in the Upper Peninsula in Michigan.

My Take

Seanan McGuire wrote an article on influential science fiction/fantasy authors, and Hines’ Libriomancer was one of her recommendations. I can’t remember what exactly she said about this story, and I gotta say that yes it was a unique tale involving vampires, Johannes Gutenberg, the printing press, books, and magic in this character- and action-driven tale. Yep, I’d love to be able to stick my hand in a book and pull something out of it…look out Roarke!

It’s a little bit Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files and something of Rachel Caine’s The Great Library. Those automatons remind me of those in The Great Library, and Hines’ description of their construction is much more interesting.

Isaac’s character arc finds him battling his tendency to jump in without thinking or following the rules, helped by the story being told from Isaac’s perspective using first person protagonist point-of-view. That Smudge is certainly useful, even if you do need fireproof pants. Lena has a character arc as well, which has an interesting evolutionary blip at the end.

Hines provides a fascinating back history for Isaac in a combination of comics and daydreams about changing history. His description of Lena and her abilities is another fascinating bit. As for the back history on Gutenberg, oh, boy. That’s a new one on why the printing press was invented, lol. More back history describes some of the avenues explored by early libriomancers, including copies of books yet to be written!

What’s the deal with the emphasis on salt? Why is the evil bugaboo after Isaac? How do they even know about him? What’s the vampire attraction to Isaac?

I suspect one could say Libriomancer has a fast pace, but it certainly feels frustrating with those obscure explanations and references Hines used. There’s no depth to individual scenes, and some of it doesn’t feel connected. I feel as if Hines is skipping stones across the water. Some actions were too confusing. The red herrings were so puzzling as to be useless. I couldn’t make any sense of various characters Isaac thought up, although it does finally start to make sense two-thirds of the way through the book.

As for tension, nope. I was so busy trying to figure out what was going on, I never did notice any.

The Story

It’s vengeance, the vampires attacking Porters because those so-called good guys have attacked the vampires. And those vampires want to know why.

But they go after the wrong libriomancer when they attack Isaac Vainio who is backed up by Lena Greenwood. They’re determined to expose the secrets of the Porters, of Gutenberg, and the truth behind the history of magic.

The Characters

Isaac Vainio used to be a field agent, a libriomancer, for Porters with hopes of doing research. For the past two years he’s been a librarian for both Copper River and the Porters, a cataloger who sees the magic potential of every book he’s read. Smudge is a four-inch fire spider pet conjured out of a book.

Lena Greenwood is the only living dryad, a hamadryad, a nymph, in North America and proficient in kendo, gatka, and anything involving wood. She was “born” from Nymphs of Neptune. She is the live-in bodyguard (and lover) to Dr Nidhi Shah, a psychiatrist who works with Porter agents and the average Joe. Lena was originally with Frank Dearing, a farmer.

Porters are…
…formally known as Die Zwelf Portenære (DZP), a.k.a., The Twelve Doorkeepers, which was started by Johannes Gutenberg to hide magic and protect the world. Gutenberg also created twelve automatons to protect him, prevent practitioners from abusing their power, and help to hide magic.

Ray Walker is an archivist and Isaac’s mentor. Nicola Pallas, a bard who shapes magic through music, is the regional master in Isaac’s area; she’s located in Illinois where she crossbreeds French poodles with chupacabras. Louis is the pack leader, Pac-Man, the pregnant Bessie, Pumbaa needs a diet adjustment, and Peaches was single-minded.

Victor Harrison had been a brilliant agent who could blend magic and machines. Abigail Dooley had been a telepath in Madison. Deb DeGeorge is another libriomancer and a librarian at the Library of Congress with a passion for history. Ken Cassidy had used a novel to make women fall in love with him. Luis Quenta manages Bolivia. Jared didn’t do well.

The Johannes Porter Institute for Literacy is one of the DZP’s corporations. Juan Ponce de Leon was one of the original Porters and has been banished to Spain. He also created the fountain of youth back in 1521.

There are six archives in the US, which is a storehouse of original locked books; being locked means the magic of any copy of that book cannot be used.

The Copper River Library…
…is in Copper River with the best sci fi-fantasy collection in the entire U.P. It’s also where Isaac works. Jennifer Latona is the library director. Their clients include the feisty Mrs Trembath, who drives her Rusty Hippo, and Karen Beacuhamp, who loves to read. Bryan is Karen’s brother. John and Lizzie Pascoe run the barbershop across the street from the library.

At another library, Ro, Stacy, and JJ need to fix a computer.

There are many different kinds of vampires, including…
…the Sanguinarius meyerii informally known as sparklers. Mel and Green Bay were sparklers in Copper River. Ted Boyer is an informant vampire, a Sanguinarius stokerus (they can shift forms), in Marquette. Jimmer is Ted’s beagle. The Sanguinarius henricus evolved from Charlaine Harris’ Southern Vampire series. Bruce Lee is alive and living in Taiwan.

A reader is a vampire who can absorb the thoughts and experiences of their victims. A Muscavore wallacea is more commonly known as the Children of Renfield who gain their energy via insects.

Dolingen Daycare is a front…
…for a vampire pack and is managed by Kyle Forrester and ruled over by Alice Granach, an accountant in her human life and now the only surviving Sanguinarius lefaunus from Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla. Mister Puddles‘ alter ego is Rupert Loyola. Other vampires include Marisha. Some of the children include Jenny and Tamika.

Akers is a cop at the Michigan State University Library. K’s Books is owned by Kevin and Fawn Shamel and is Isaac’s armory. Jakob Hoffman is a character in a World War II fantasy, V-Day. Charles de Guerre copyrighted something. I think it may be V-Day. Although it might be Charles Hubert?? Margaret is Charles and Mike‘s mother. Private Sterling was a victim. Captain Nichols is in command. Johann Fust was an investor who helped fund Gutenberg’s press. Peter had been a skilled scriptor and craftsman. Katherine Pfeifferin was a victim.

All supernatural creatures are either natural-born or created via books. Libriomancy uses the collective belief of readers who imbue the words on the page with magic. Moly is an herb that nullifies magic. Chesa, a manananggal, was captured. Merfolk and naga are part of this world. Jenny Johnson was a passion in ninth grade. Iced Z is powdered zombie brains.

The Cover and Title

The cover is a range of greens and browns with a collage of libraries making up the background and Isaac facing us in his brown leather coat and pants and pale sweatshirt, intent on watching the blazing sword he’s forcing into the book’s center. At the top is an arch of the title in a circus-like font using a gradient of orange to yellow. The series information is in a shadowed white beneath the first four letters of the title to the left of Isaac’s head. The author’s name is in a pale yellow below the book.

The title is about a Libriomancer, Isaac Vainio to be precise.

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