Natalie: Libriomancer, Jim C. Hines

Written by Natalie Luhrs

I'm a lifelong geek with a passion for books and social justice.
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October 3, 2012

Libriomancer, Jim C. Hines

Libriomancer, Jim C. Hines

I really wanted to like Jim C. Hines’s latest book, Libriomancer. And there were parts I did like, very much. Donna did a great job summarizing the plot in her review yesterday, so I’m just going to write my opinions.

Things I liked:

  • It’s set in Michigan. I’m (more or less) from Michigan, so I’m always happy to see it show up in a fantasy novel. I was also happy that Hines didn’t indulge in ruin porn when it came to the parts set in Detroit.
  • The magic system is really awesome, but I have some concerns. I loved the way the source of the books power rests in the readers and their belief in the books.
  • The two main characters, Isaac Vainio and Lena Greenwood, are fantastic and I love the resolution of the romantic conundrum they find themselves in at the end of the book (LOVE IT).
  • Lena is explicitly described as being “heavyset” and extremely attractive and I loved that about her character. There just aren’t that many kick-ass fat women in fantasy novels who also get to have sex lives.
  • Smudge! Yay, Smudge!
  • Hines’s close attention to language that can be hurtful to marginalized groups–it’s nice to pick up a book and know that there probably isn’t going to be thoughtless violence or language against women or other less privileged groups.

Things I didn’t like:

  • One of the characters has the same name, general occupation, and appearance as someone I know (she is a friend of both mine and of the author’s). I found this extremely distracting. I admit that this is a very Natalie-specific complaint and likely wasn’t an issue for anyone else. I’ve read lots of other books with tuckerizations, but they’re generally bit characters, not major secondary characters.
  • A lot of the action felt very rushed and a bit sloppy.
  • The magic system, while awesome, also can lend itself to some serious deus ex machina action–which Hines has seemed to mitigate in the text so far but I give the possibility the side-eye.

There was just something about this book that didn’t gel for me–I really liked an awful lot about it and I think the concept of the magic system is really fascinating and the characters were great. But overall, it fell a bit flat for me and I’m not sure why. I’ll probably pick up the next book in the series when it comes out next year, but I’ll either wait for the paperback or buy an electronic edition.

Note: My copy of this book was provided by the publisher as part of my previous association with RT Book Reviews. I actually ended up with two copies of it, so the first one I received (a bound manuscript) was sent to the person who reviewed it for the magazine and the ARC I received a month or so later went into my to be read pile.

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7 Comments

  1. Charity McLaren

    First off, thank you (and Donna) for reviewing Libriomancer. Jim is a friend of ours (he and my husband work together at the state, and our oldest kids went to preschool together) and because of that, we like to see him making successful strides in the bookworld, which can be very tough.

    Like you, I love the fact that the book is set in MI. it’s always fun to read fictional accounts of places you’re familiar with.
    I also love the concept of the libriomancer, being able to pull items out of books at will… Imagine if we could really do that!!
    I don’t like the “resolution” of the romantic conundrum. It feels forced, like Jim was trying to be controversial just for the sake of being controversial.
    And finally, I feel like the action pacing was weird. The start of the book seemed at a good pace, but by the end, everything seemed really rushed.
    All in all, it was a pretty enjoyable book, good entertainment for some light reading. I look forward to the series progressing, and finding out where Jim is going to send Isaac on his next adventures.

    • Natalie

      Charity! Long time no talk!

      It’s a small world! I didn’t know that you and Jim were friends–that is excellent. I reviewed the first two goblin books for RT and enjoyed them tremendously. I have the fairy tale series sitting on my bookshelf to read at some point, too.

      I don’t feel that the ending of the book was controversial for the sake of controversy–some people’s lives are like that and it’s not something portrayed in a non-negative way in the media, so I was very glad to see it for that and some other reasons I’m not willing to discuss publicly.

      The libriomancer concept is great, which is why I will pick up the second book when it comes out, but much like Donna, I am not super-patient so if I don’t see some improvement in the structural issues (the weird pacing being the biggest one), I won’t read much further. Definitely good light reading, though, and there are definitely days I wish I could pull things out of books to help me with my daily problems.

    • Charity McLaren

      Ok, on further thought…, controversial is not really the right word to describe how the Lena/Isaac thing is resolved, and how I feel. It just really felt forced, like the characters were already headed in one way, and then *bam* Surprise! The author decides to turn the whole thing on it’s ear, and then hand you this new “different” relationship all tied up with a pretty little bow, and everything is happy and everyone goes waltzing into the sunset. It just feels wrong to me. Feels like overtly trying to avoid any hard feeling in the characters, by coming up with this “different” choice in relationships.

    • Natalie

      I can totally buy that it felt forced to you. In most books, the love triangle is resolved by someone making a decision to be with one person over another, so a deliberate non-resolution (or a reconfiguration of a love triangle into something more relationship shaped) could be seen as a way to avoid hard feelings or other conflict.

      I am hoping that in subsequent books that we’ll see how Lena’s decision to be with both Isaac and Nidhi actually wasn’t the easy or expedient choice but one that comes with an entirely different set of challenges.

    • Jesse

      Excellent! I was hoping the “controversial” ending was a poly-friendly resolution to a love triangle. I must read this book!

      Thank you, Natalie, for the lovely review 🙂

    • donna

      For me, the resolution of the Isaac/Lena storyline worked because it’s completely in line with who, or more specifically, what, Lena is. The nature of her character makes it, really, one of the few realistic options for her. So it doesn’t feel forced to me, or a case of the author trying to be controversial, in this context. In fact, upon reflection, I think I would have been disappointed had he gone with a different solution–that would not have worked with Lena’s character.

      The pacing at the end of the book is definitely rushed–I felt like there were bombs going off all around me and I didn’t know which way to run. But hey, that plotting stuff is hard, and learning to pace a book is really hard–I know very successful authors (I’m looking at you, Simon R. Green!) who still don’t quite get it right. I do hope it’s something he pays some attention to in the next book, though. That and a few plot clunkers were really my biggest complaints. Otherwise, I had a great time reading it.

    • Rosary

      Darn it, now I’m feeling missed something when I read it, but then again, I read it as pure escapism without much critical faculty because it was right before going back into the semester. Now, I feel guilty that I didn’t pay that much attention to the plot clunkers (and it’s been almost two months so I don’t remember much of the plot anymore!)

      However, I don’t recall seeing a problem in the Lena/Isaac/whatshername “resolution”? Mostly, I didn’t really see it as resolved permanently, but as something that would work itself out through the series. And it did feel genuine to Lena and actually to Isaac: Lena because the tension between the two relationships allowed her choices she had never had and Issac, because he spends such a large amount of time worrying over Lena’s situation.

      I’ll pick up the next one, and I’ll go read my husband’s giant goblin omnibus, so it was successful for me on that level.

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  1. Linkspam, 10/5/12 Edition — Radish Reviews - [...] Lena. Donna and I both reviewed Libriomancer, the first book in the series, here (Donna) and here [...]

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