Saturday 12 March 2016

Libriomancer, by Jim C. Hines, and The Wrath of Angels, by John Connolly

I must admit I had never heard of Jim Hines before I added Libriomancer (published 2012) to my reading pile some time ago, probably as a result of an Interzone review.  On checking his Wiki entry I see that he has form when it comes to fantasy writing, with four novels in the Goblin Quest series, another four in the Princess series, four (to date) in the Magic Ex Libris series (of which Libriomancer is the first) plus a couple of other novels and collections. Not a bad output over a decade or so.

Isaac Vainio is a librarian – and a libriomancer, a magician who can mentally enter a novel he is holding and retrieve any object described in the book: a magic sword, a death-ray, a healing potion. A handy ability, but one with dangers if he becomes too involved with the magic, as a result of doing which Vainio has been banned from practising it by the secret society of libriomancers. This was orginally set up by Johannes Gutenberg, the inventor of the printing press, who is still around. Or at least, should be – but war has broken out between the magicians and the vampires, and Gutenberg is nowhere to be found. Isaac has to revive his magical abilities to survive, with the aid of Smudge his incendiary spider (who sets light to his surroundings when he gets worried) and Lena, an attractive dryad capable of some neat tricks with wood.

The concept of pulling objects out of books is not exactly original, featuring in the German Inkheart trilogy which also resulted in a film. However, Libriomancer is an enjoyable contemporary urban fantasy, although the entertainment is possibly too light: I read the book on consecutive evenings but still found that at the start of each session I had to re-read some of it to refresh my memory. Or maybe it's just my memory… There are three sequels so far, but I'm not sure if I'll get around to them, given the size of my reading pile.


The Wrath of Angels (published 2013) is also a contemporary urban fantasy, but that's where the comparison ends. Charlie Parker is a private detective working in the north-eastern corner of the USA, who is drawn into conflict with some decidedly inhuman beings over the wreck of a plane found in remote forest.  The story is original and well-written with good character development, but my enjoyment was reduced by two things. First, it is the eleventh book in a series so there is a lot of backstory I missed, and the series continues afterwards so this novel doesn't wrap everything up either. Secondly, it is a rather unpleasant story with strong horror elements and without any humour or appealing characters to lighten the mood. Not to my taste.

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