Do I want to be a Libriomancer? Hell yes! How cool to be able to reach into a book and pull stuff from it. Useful stuff of course, like death rays and disrupter pistols and magic potions and fire-spiders. Sign me up for the next Libriomancy course.
Isaac Vainio is a disgraced member of Die Zwelf Portenaere, the secret society founded by printing-press guru Johannes Gutenberg. He’s been kicked off fieldwork and relegated to cataloguing books at the Copper River Library. He’s not technically allowed to use his special libriomancy magical powers any more, but a gang of rogue vampires busting into the library qualifies as extreme circumstances. It’s the first indication Isaac has that something is very wrong up at Porters HQ. The careful balance the Porters maintain between the normal and supernatural world is askew and, unexpectedly, it’s up to Isaac to find out why.
What follows is a fun and exciting story that also has an surprisingly serious spine. Harnessing the power of collective imagination to pull objects from books because our minds have created that power is the most glorious idea. Isaac’s use of all-time classics such as The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe warms bibliophile hearts everywhere I’m sure. But, the flipside of this ability is evident in Hines’ writing – power wielded without responsibility is an aberration. Rules are clearly drawn, for the greater good, although the lack of transparency inherent in a secret society complicates matters.
That magic comes at a price is clear. The energy required to retrieve objects, entering a different reality, drains the libriomancers physically and mentally. The toll different books take was interesting. I was fascinated by the idea that Alice in Wonderland is extremely useful and extremely dangerous – beware its madness so close to the surface.
There’s a hint of Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next stories about the way books interact with the world and in some whimsical flourishes. The classification of vampire species really made me smile: Sanguinarius Meyerii being the newest breed identified. Again, it’s not just frivolous. The second main character is dryad Lena Greenwood who has been inadvertently pulled from book where her function is to mould to the exact desires of her mate. In the wrong hands she could be a creepy virtual sex-slave. Her situation did make me feel uncomfortable, something that wasn’t entirely relieved by Isaac’s own unease with the situation. What interested me was that Isaac admired Lena before she explained her nature, and that afterwards he was reluctant to adopt what he considered a position of power over her. I wonder where their relationship will go next.
Most of all I simply enjoyed being in this crazy of world of Doctor Who references, book armour, and automatons. I’m definitely adding book two to my list.
Libriomancer is available now from Del Rey. My copy was kindly sent to me by the publisher.