The first in the fantasy series Magic Ex Libris set in modern times. And with magic that needs books!

Publication year: 2012
Format: Audio
Running time: 10 hours and 33 minutes
Narrator: David DeVries
Publisher: DAW

Isaac Vainio is a libriomancer; he can pull out objects out of books. And that means fantasy and SF books, too! Johannes Gutenberg founded their organization which has been secretly protecting humans from vampires and other baddies for centuries. Gutenberg is still alive and running them.

Isaac was a field agent once but two years ago he was forbidden to use magic and demoted to a “mere” librarian. However, when three vampires attack him in his library, he’s forced to use magic again. Thanks to the timely arrival of his butt-kicking friend Lena Greenwood, Isaac survives the attack and finds out that Gutenberg himself has disappeared and that the libriomancers and the vampires are apparently at war with each other, each side blaming the other for starting it all. Worse, Lena’s lover has been kidnapped and she asks Isaac for help. Of course he has to help.

I enjoyed Hines’ Princess series a lot and so the siren call of this book, too, lured me in. I loved the idea of libriomancy and it was used fully in the first chapter. Isaac is huge fan of SF and fantasy so he uses items from those books. One of the first items used is Lois McMaster Bujold’s truth drug, fast-penta! He also uses disruptors from Star Trek and other various items. However, there are limits. For example, the item must be small enough to physically fit through the covers, so no Enterprise or Millennium Falcon. (Well, ok, Paramount’s and Disney’s copyright lawyers are also scary.) Also, intelligent creatures shouldn’t be brought through, either. They tend to go insane. Also, Libriomancers themselves can’t just write books with all the cool toys they want to. Books also need enough enthusiastic readers until they’re magical enough to function.

Isaac is an earnest young man who wants to help the people he likes. He loves SF and fantasy and even dresses in a long brown coat, because of Captain Mal! On the other hand, he can be ruthless towards other people.

Lena has a… very interesting backstory and I was a bit concerned at first at how Hines would handle it, but I shouldn’t had been. He handled it tastefully. She uses two bokken, wooden swords, and since she’s a dryad, a tree spirit, she can do interesting things with them. She’s an awesome fighter, going toe-to-toe with vampires. And she’s bisexual. We find out early on that Isaac has a huge crush on her and this made me cringe, too, but for the most part, Hines dealt nicely with that, too. Oh, and she’s not thin.

Smudge is Isaac’s pet fire spider. It did come through from a book but since it’s an animal, it was able to adapt. It’s very loyal to Isaac and functions as an early warning system, too.

One of Isaac’s friends is Ponce deLeon who knows quite a lot about magic, since he’s several hundred years ago, like Gutenberg.

On the minus side, the world required a lot of explaining so there are numerous info dumps.

This was fun ride. And the ending had a twist which makes me eager for the next book.