Short works

Books : reviews

Jim C. Hines.
DAW. 2012

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 6 February 2014

Isaac is a libriomancer, a member of a secret organization founded five centuries ago by Johannes Gutenberg to protect the world from supernatural threats. Libriomancers are gifted with the ability to magically reach into books and draw forth objects. When Isaac is attacked by vampires that leaked from the page of books into our world, he barely manages to escape. To his horror he discovers that vampires have been attacking other magic users as well, and Gutenberg has been kidnapped.

With the help of his fire-spider, Smudge, and Lena—a motor-cycle-riding dryad who packs a pair of wooden swords—Isaac finds himself hunting the unknown dark power that has been manipulating humans and vampires alike. His search will uncover dangerous secrets about libriomancy, Gutenberg, and the history of magic…

Two years ago libriomancer Isaac Vainio was forced to give up magic after badly misjudging a field operation. Now he just catalogues books, looking for ones that need to be locked lest their contents escape. No one would want the One Ring, or worse, out in the real world, would they? He has just about resigned himself to his fate when three vampires attack. Suddenly he's on the run, helped only by his fire spider and Lena the dryad, hunting down a rogue libriomancer who might just end the world.

The is fun. It's probably most fun if you are a fan who recognises the books that Isaac uses during his adventures (although I was disapointed to discover that the Ann Crispin novel mentioned is fictional: I was about to look it up on Amazon). But even without that, there's action, a magical system that at first seems too powerful but we then see has sensible limiting rules, and interesting characters, Lena particularly: a fictional character trying to survive in the real world under some very limiting constraints.

We get a good conclusion, but there are clearly more stories to be told in this world, and indeed there is a sequel due out later this year.

Jim C. Hines.
Codex Born.
DAW. 2013

rating : 4 : passes the time
review : 15 October 2014

Isaac Vainio’s life is just about perfect. He should know it can’t last.

Living and working as a part-time librarian in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Isaac has finally earned the magical research position he has dreamed of with the Porters. He is seeing a smart, fun, gorgeous dryad named Lena Greenwood. He has been cleared by Johannes Gutenberg to practice libriomancy once again, reaching into books to create whatever he chooses from their pages. Best of all, it has been more than two months since anything tried to kill him.

And then Isaac, Lena, and Porter psychiatrist Nidhi Shah are called to the small mining town of Tamarack, Michigan, where werewolves have discovered the body of a brutally murdered wendigo.

What begins as a simple monster-slaying leads to deeper mysteries and the discovery of an organization thought to have been wiped out by Gutenberg more than five centuries ago. Their magic rips through Isaac’s with ease, and their next target is Lena Greenwood.

Born decades ago from the pages of a pulp fantasy novel, Lena’s powers are unique, and Gutenberg’s enemies mean to use her to destroy everything the Porters have built. But their plan could unleash an army of entropy and chaos, bent on devouring all it touches.

The Upper Peninsula is about to become ground zero in a magical war like nothing the world has seen in more than five hundred years.

Isaac Vainio has been restored to the secret society of Porters, a libriomancer who can use his magic to pull artefacts from books. He is also working out his new relationship with the Dryad Lena, and Dr Shah. Things are going well for him, until a wendigo is killed.

Each chapter start off with a little first person slice of Lena’s history, before leaping into the main tale of mayhem, magic, books, and devourers. As usual, half the fun is recognising the many books Isaac uses as source material to fight off the bad guys (some of whom we realise may not actually be the bad guys, as we discover more of Gutenberg’s backstory). Again, some of the books mentioned are fictitious: I want to read Nymphs of Neptune just for its sheer awfulness! Lena’s plight as a character spawned from that book is well drawn, and although at the start she says Isaac has offered her hope, she is still bound to her tree and her nature at the end.

Although there is a resolution to the main part of the plot here, the world has been changed, and there is clearly a bigger battle yet to be fought.

Jim C. Hines.
DAW. 2014

For centuries, the Porters have concealed the existence of magic from the world. Now, old enemies have revealed the Porters' secrets, and an even greater threat lurks in the shadows. The would-be queen Meridiana, banished for a thousand years, has returned in the body of a girl named Jeneta Aboderin. She seeks an artifact created by Pope Sylvester II that would grant her command of an army of the deacL.

Michigan librarian Isaac Vainio is powerless to stop her, having been stripped of his power and his place among the Porters by Johannes Gutenberg himself. But Isciac is determined to regain his magic and to rescue his former student Jeneta. With no magic of his own, Isaac must delve into the darker side of black-market magic, where he will confront beings better left undisturbed, including the sorcerer Juan Ponce de Leon.

With his loyal fire-spider Smudge, dryad warrior Lena Greenwood, and psychiatrist Nidhi Shah, Isaac races to unravel a mystery more than a thousand years old as competing magical powers battle to shape the future of the world.

Isaac's choices will determine the fate of his friends, the Porters, the students of Bi Sheng, and the world. Only one thing is certain: even if he finds a way to restore his magic, he can't save them all…

Jim C. Hines.
DAW. 2016

When Isaac Vainio helped to reveal magic to the world, he dreamed of a utopian future, a new millennium of magical prosperity. One year later, things aren’t going quite as he’d hoped. An organization known as Vanguard, made up of magical creatures and ex-Porters, wants open war with the mundane world. Isaac’s own government is incarcerating “potential supernatural enemies” in prisons and internment camps. And Isaac finds himself targeted by all sides.

It’s a war that will soon envelop the world, and the key to victory may lie with Isaac himself, as he struggles to incorporate everything he’s learned into a new, more powerful form of libriomancy. Surrounded by betrayal and political intrigue, Isaac and a ragtag group of allies must evade pursuit both magical and mundane, expose a conspiracy by some of the most powerful people in the world, and find a path to a better future. But what will that futures cost Isaac and the ones he loves?

Jim C. Hines.
The Stepsister Scheme.
DAW. 2009

You know how all those old fairy tales take you through lots of scary adventures until you finally reach that inevitable line: “And they lived happily ever after….” Guess what? It’s not true. Life in never-never land isn’t all sweetness and light. Cinderella—whose real name is Danielle Whiteshore (née Danielle de G1as)—does marry Prince Armand. And (if you can ignore the pigeon incident) their wedding is a dream-come-true.

But not long after the “happily ever after,” Danielle is attacked by her stepsister Charlotte, who suddenly has all sorts of magic to call upon. And though Talia—otherwise known as Sleeping Beauty—comes to the rescue (she’s a martial arts master, and all those fairy blessings make her almost unbeatable), Charlotte gets away.

That’s when Danielle discovers a number of disturbing facts: Armand has been kidnapped and taken to the realm of the Fairies; Danielle is pregnant with his child; and the Queen has her own very secret service that consists of Talia and Snow (White, of course). Snow is an expert at mirror magic and heavy duty flirting.

Can the three princesses track down Armand and extract both the prince and themselves from the clutches of some of fantasyland’s most nefarious villains?

Jim C. Hines.
The Mermaid's Madness.
DAW. 2009

There is an old story—you might have heard it—about a young mermaid, the daughter of a king, who saved the life of a human prince and fell in love. So innocent was her love, so pure her devotion, that she would pay any price for the chance to be with her prince. She gave up her voice, her family, and the sea, and became human. But the prince fell in love with another woman. The tales say the little mermaid sacrificed her own life so that her beloved prince could find happiness with his bride. The tales lie.

If you want to know the real story, a tale not of unrequited love and noble sacrifice but one of madness, murder, and magic gone awry, Danielle, Talia, and Snow—a.k.a. Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Snow White—are the three princesses who can tell you what really happened. They were then when everything fell apart, and unthinkable tragedy struck the kingdom of Lorindar. And they were the only ones who stood a chance of setting things right, not only for Queen Bea and Lorindar, but for the merfolk as well…

Jim C. Hines.
Red Hood's Revenge.
DAW. 2010

Roudette’s story was a simple one. A red cape. A wolf. A hunter.

Her mother told her she would be safe, so long as she kept to the path. But sometimes the path leads to dark places. Roudette is the hunter now, an assassin known throughout the world as the Lady of the Red Hood. Her mission will take her to Arathea and an ancient fairy threat. At the heart of the conflict between humans and fairies stands the woman Roudette has been hired to kill, the only human ever to have fought the Lady of the Red Hood and survived: the princess known as Sleeping Beauty.

Jim C. Hines.
The Snow Queen's Shadow.
DAW. 2011

A broken mirror. A stolen child. A final mission to try to stop an enemy they never dreamed they would face.

When a spell gone wrong shatters Snow White’s enchanted mirror, a demon escapes into the world. The demon’s magic distorts the vision of all it touches, showing people only ugliness and hate. It is a power that turns even friends and lovers into mortal foes, one that will threaten humans and fairies alike.

And the first to fall under the demon’s power is the princess, Snow White…