Libriomancer / Jim C. Hines
New York: DAW Books, c2012.
Read the opening pages at Jim Hines' website
Alright, I picked this one up at work because it looked fun and I was in the mood for a fun, light read. As I began I wasn't sure I'd enjoy it, as it had a certain tone -- sarcastic, flippant etc. -- that sometimes turns me off a book. But...it also starts in a library. And the main character, Isaac Vainio, is a libriomancer, someone who can practice a particular form of magic which entails reaching into books and pulling out objects (rules apply: has to fit within the boundaries of the pages, you can't keep it, etc.) And there's a fire spider. And evil, sparkly vampires called Meyerii. And a dryad to the rescue.
So, ok, I was won over pretty quickly. And I got to really like Isaac and his spider Smudge -- and those who know me will know what a concession it is to 'like' a spider ;) There were shades of Jasper Fforde here, and for some reason, Dewey and the Mallville Library kept coming to mind... It's a fun read, setting up a series redolent with magic: Isaac belongs to a magical society called the Porters, run by the 600 year old master of book magic, Johannes Gutenberg. I don't know what it is lately -- this is the second bookish book I've read recently about secret societies, magic, quests and so forth, and early printers are behind it both times!
This story follows Isaac as he is is reinstated as a magical agent after 2 years as a library clerk. He and Lena the dryad are sent to seek out the source of new violence as vampires and the Porters go to war against one another. They aren't sure who to trust and have to rely on their particular gifts to get them through many tight situations. It's a romp, with constant references to the books that Isaac uses as weapons (some unexpected, like The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe --a healing potion -- The Road to Oz -- a love charm -- and the Odyssey -- Moly, a herb which removes the effects of enchantment.) In a nice touch, the magic that Isaac accesses in books comes from the mass level of belief in a narrative that arises from large numbers of readers reading the same text; thus Gutenberg with his printing press was the originator of this kind of magic.
While it is very light, there are some surprising elements, a little bit different from the usual fare. I found it to be entertaining, bookish fun -- and enjoyed the list of titles at the back of the book, all those referred to in the text (the imaginary ones carefully noted). Lighter than some of the other "bookish" books out there, this is still worth reading, in my opinion. Urban fantasy with some classic space travel tossed in for fun. Strange, manic and amusing.