Author: Jim C. Hines
Series: Magic Ex Libris, book 1
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Review: I've heard of Jim C. Hines and his book mostly through the blogs of John Scalzi and Patrick Rothfuss who seem to be friends enough to pose semi-naked together in photographs. Clearly these guys have a sense of humor and I liked the premise of Libriomancer, so I gave it a chance.
The book is told from the first POV by Isaac Vainio who is a libriomancer, part of a secret group named the Porters. What libriomancy entails is the ability to reach into any book and pull out an object from it. However, Isaac has been banned from the field for losing control of his magic before and exiled to file books in a small-town library in the middle of nowhere. All of that changes one day when he gets attacked by three sparklers, vampires of the type Sanguinarius Meyerii. He then joins forces with a dryad and begins to unravel the mystery of some of the Porters going missing.
The very strange phenomenon in this book was the fact that I kept thinking that the main character is female when I started reading it. Given that both the narrator and the author are male, it didn't make much sense, but the narrative just felt that way to start with. I guess I associate kindly bookworms with girls. But then, of course, Lena appeared and Isaac spends a bunch of time deciding whether to sex or not to sex and his gender became pretty apparent.
The book turned out to be pretty fast-paced and fun. Isaac and Lena go around, getting into trouble, and surviving the fights beyond all odds. The plot is quite linear and somewhat predictable, but it's all good fun. As one might imagine, there are lots of references to other novels an SF enthusiast would be familiar with and I got a kick of out of the various magic artifacts Isaac manages to pull out of books.
What bothered me a bit about the novel was the romantic conflict of the book. Lena is a character brought from a book written so that she becomes what her lover desires her to be. The author meta-sneers at the cliche, and yet spends a good part of the book having Isaac expound the moral choices of taking such a lover, and in my opinion spending way too much time on this fantasy and resolving the conflict in a way I didn't find entirely believable. It's an interesting handicap for a kick-ass female heroine, but the way it gets handled in the book rubbed me the wrong way a bit.
Otherwise, it's a pretty fun book with some interesting perspectives presented by Isaac on how the magic can and should be used. I love the sciency aspect of using magic to do practical things and the Porters being more researchers than sorcerers. I'll definitely consider picking up the next book in the series.