I’ve had a bit of a lull in books to read since I finished Changeling. The next book on my list doesn’t come out until early September so I had to figure out something to fill my time. In a new segment on Felicia Day’s Geek and Sundry channel on YouTube, I heard about urban fantasy author Jim Hines and his newest release. So I decided to check it out. I was not disappointed.
Author: Jim C. Hines
One of the reasons I enjoy writing is because I love to read. There is just a joy in getting lost in a different world. That concept is magnified in Jim Hines’ Libriomancer, the first in a new series. It follows Isaac Vainio, a library cataloger and former Libriomancer (an individual who has the ability to pull objects from books) as he fends off vampire attacks and tries to solve the mystery of why someone wants him and the rest of his former colleagues dead and to where his former leader, Johannes Gutenberg, the first Libriomancer, has disappeared. Along the way, Isaac has help from Lena Greenwood, a dryad pulled as a seedling from a book and Smudge, Isaac’s fire-spider pulled from yet another book.
Having not read any of Hines’ previous work, I wasn’t sure what to expect when opening up Isaac’s first tale. From the moment we meet Isaac, I connected with him. Not only is he a very sympathetic narrator, but he’s a big Doctor Who fan and he adores Firefly. Two of my favorite genre shows show up pretty early on in the book. If he were a real person, we would be best friends. Hines’ gives Isaac a very interesting voice that keeps the reader engaged in the story and Isaac’s struggle. I couldn’t put the book down (okay so I was reading it on my phone but whatever).
While reading, I kept stopping momentarily to chuckle and laugh at just how many sci-fi shows and books Hines manages to cram into the story. One might think it would date the book or distract from the plot but it fit perfectly. You couldn’t help but love the fact that Isaac could dip in to The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe or a Doctor Who tie-in novel to grab some psychic paper or some healing potion. At one point Isaac pulls out a brown coat which is reminiscent of the Tenth Doctor’s overcoat and Captain Mal Reynolds’ brown coat. It was literally geek heaven wending my way through the journey.
Hines did well to paint a picture of just where all of the action was going down. For the most part we spent the story in various parts of Michigan. I have to admit, I’ve not seen an urban fantasy set there before. Dresden takes place in Chicago for instance but I think Hines sets himself apart by using a lesser known area. He does however make it relatable. He did his research and Isaac and others affectionately call the upper portion of the state the U.P. (or Upper Peninsula). I liked those little identifying details that made you believe the characters were real and knew their surroundings.
Another interesting thing Hines did with his mystical creatures, especially the vampires, was to base them on various authors. Since the power comes from books, you had vampires based on Stoker, Meyers and even Harris. The fact that Isaac is attacked at work (at the library where he catalogs books) by Meyers-type vampires is just a hoot. Many of the vampires we’re introduced to, especially those settled in Detroit, were rather civilized, with their own ecosystem below ground. Hines was careful to make sure that while the vampires remained interesting, they were still very dangerous.
I would have liked to see some other creatures pop up in more than just passing references. We had a small flashback to some zombies and various mentions of ghosts and chupacabras but that was it. The main baddies were the vampires. I realize that there was a larger evil at work that is likely to be the basis for the remainder of the series but I feel like vampires are a bit overdone (as evidenced by just how many varieties showed up in the book).
I also enjoyed how Johannes Gutenberg fit in with the rest of the story. I have to say, I really do enjoy it when writers incorporate historical figures into their work, especially in an urban fantasy setting. In Hines’ world, Gutenberg was the founder of the secret organization of Libriomancers known as the Porters and was the first Libriomancer. He was also immortal thanks to the Holy Grail. Hines did a wonderful job making Isaac and others think that perhaps Gutenberg was behind the various attacks against Porters and vampires alike. I have to say I had mixed feelings about Gutenberg’s true motives and involvement but I enjoyed Isaac’s process of working through his own doubts, concerns and revelations.
I admit I’m a little sad that this is only the first book in the series and that it only just came out at the start of August. That means I’ve got at least 6-9 months (probably closer to a whole year) before book 2 comes out. The only comfort I have is that I know Jim is busy working on book 2 right now. Perhaps if I have the time, I’ll go back and read some of his other work.