Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines

Recommended to Carol by: book o’month
Recommended for: arachnophiliacs
Read from October 13 to 16, 2012, read count: twice

I’m enchanted by the idea behind Libriomancer–really, what book lover wouldn’t be? Mass reading/belief in a book enables specially trained book-loving readers, known as ‘libromancers,’ to bring parts of the book into life. Widely-read readers will be further amused by multitudes of book references, creating a little nudge-wink action.

Short summary: Isaac is in the library cataloging books when he is attacked by angry Sanguinarius Meyerii (aka ‘sparklers’). They’re looking for information behind attacks on the vampires and are ready to drain him to get it. Deft libromancy, a butt-kicking dryad named Lena and a fire-spider named Smudge take care of the attack. The three go to Isaac’s to compare notes and consult with Isaac’s contacts in the Porters, the secret organization of libromancers started by Gutenberg in the late 1400s. Still alive five hundred years later (he pulled the Holy Grail from the Bibles he printed), he hasn’t been seen since the trouble with the vampires started. Although he should be protected by twelve automatons he created, it appears the automatons are being used in attacks against the Porters.

It’s a great premise that springs into action in the beginning, and the first four chapters had me riveted. A number of sections made me smile, especially Issac’s Babel fish, and the Latin classifications for vampires–their informant is a hybrid Sanguinarius Stokerus. When we hit the road in chapter five, however, a minor case of ‘first book’ syndrome developed, which is to say a lot of info-dumping, cumbersomely inserted into the story by Isaac explaining Porters to Lena, and she explaining dryads in return.

On a positive note, there is interesting character building here, especially the secondary ones. Brief appearances by a few different Porters are interesting and give a picture of complex beings doing a challenging job. My hands-down favorite is the fire-spider, Smudge, (and there’s something I’ve never said before), with his taste for sweets (particularly chocolate-covered ants) and fondness for SpongeBob‘s red tie. I was most ambivalent about the dryad, who suffered from attempt-to-appeal-to-modern-women-while-being-written-by-modern-man-syndrome (it’s becoming a more and more common condition). You know what I mean–kicks butt, rides a motorcycle, physically chunky, eats junk food, has a can-do spirit and wears high-top sneakers. However, as the antithesis of feminism, she is required by nature to have a lover, whose needs and interests then help define her. Male or female, doesn’t matter–it’s in her nature to be attached. Maybe I didn’t mean ‘appeal to modern women.’ Maybe I meant ‘appeal to geek guys.’

The hero has a number of faults, making a number of questionable decisions, tending to martyristic actions and generally ruthlessly using the non-humans (such as planting a bomb on a vampire). Lena humanizes him, and forces him to question some of those assumptions. So while I applaud the effort to inject ethical considerations, it’s still annoying. Yep, that’s earth-woman’s role, professing love and understanding for all creatures and helping man understand his connection.

So what went wrong? Excessive explanations continued to the climax, probably necessary because the plot and villains both seemed quite convoluted. While I liked Lena’s kick-butt actions, it was a bit too stereotypical, added to being generally cognitively weird for a tree dryad. What tore it for me was the Piers Anthony grade relationship between Isaac and Lena, then further complicated by it being a love triangle (“Is it right to love someone that is forced by nature to love me?” —gaack). To me, Hines took a marvelous concept, started to execute it well, and mucked it up by dabbling in romance. (view spoiler) [The ending hinted at a possible three way romance between Isaac, Lena and the psychologist, which resulted in major eyerolls. Must every romance require a three-way love conflict??]

However, there were a number of delightful sections:

“What was that stuff?”
“Truth serum.” Deb didn’t move. I wouldn’t have either, given how pissed off Lena looked. “I read about it in your reports. Bujold, I think.”
That would explain my laid-back reaction. Bujold wrote good truth drugs.

“Which reminds me, there’s a vampire hand in your freezer’s ice maker.” Seeing my aghast expression, she added, “Don’t worry. I double-bagged it.”

“All total, I was packing sixteen titles when I finished, including a hardcover in the front that should provide a little extra protection for the heart.”

All in all, I’d call it three stars. I’ll likely check out a sequel if it appears, but I’ll be getting it from the public library.

About thebookgator

avid reader and Goodreads reviewer looking for a home.
This entry was posted in Book reviews, fantasy, Urban fantasy and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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