Libriomancer by Jim C Hines

Rating 7.5/10
All good fun, strong female characters, thoughtful moments and an awful lot of books.

Some people would say it’s a bad idea to bring a fire-spider into a public library. Those people would probably be right, but it was better than leaving him alone in the house for nine hours straight. The one time I tried, Smudge had expressed his displeasure by burning through the screen that covered his tank, burrowing into my laundry basket, and setting two weeks’ worth of clothes ablaze.

The fire department had arrived in time to keep the whole place from burning. I remembered digging through the drenched, dripping mess my bedroom had become until I found Smudge huddled in a corner. With steam rising from his body, he had raced onto my shoulder and clung there as if terrified I was going to abandon him again.

And then he bit my ear.

Isaac Vainio is a Libriomancer, a member of a secret society founded five centuries ago by Johannes Gutenberg. As such, he is gifted with the magical ability to reach into books and draw forth objects. But when Gutenberg vanishes without a trace, Isaac finds himself pitted against everything from vampires to a sinister, nameless foe who is bent on revealing magic to the world at large… and at any cost.

This was originally published in 2012 in the US. This edition has a different cover but the American English has not been changed – tyre spelled ‘tire’ for example. I was rather amused that they explained the Tardis in a book aimed at nerdfighters.

Despite the length, it’s an easy and relatively quick read – don’t expect literary, but do expect action. As you can see, it’s quite funny in a geeky SFF way – it really helps if you know the books in the bibliography [not the made-up ones, obviously].

Told from the point of view of Isaac, it’s fast-paced with a whirlwind climax. If it were human, it would be a reiver in the science fiction –urban fantasy borderlands, stealing bits from anyone. It does have its own rules, though, and sticks to them.

I’d recommend it to teens – it might be shelved under YA or NA (whatever that is). There are some interesting debates on sexuality and free will. Nothing too graphic is shown – and the same goes for the violence. A film version would be a 12, or 15 certificate at most – nothing to upset an open-minded Torchwood viewer.

The whole premise could easily be based on this Dr Who quotation:

“You want weapons? We're in a library. Books are the best weapon in the world. This room's the greatest arsenal we could have. Arm yourself!”

The jacket design reflects the story well – a space age blaster used in a library of ancient tomes by a handsome young boffin in a duster coat hits the tone spot on. It’s all good fun, with strong female characters, some thoughtful moments about destiny – and an awful lot of books. And there’s a chunk of the next one, too.

Published by Del Rey in the UK 2014
305 pages in paperback

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