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Libriomancer - The Revolution of the Moon
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Thu, Aug. 2nd, 2012 10:36 am

Since he was kind enough to send me an ARC the least I can do is review it (in exchange, I promised that if we are ever shipwrecked or in an improbable apocalypse scenario and there was a choice between eating him or a cute puppy, I would chow down on the adorable canine.)

Jim Hines’ Libriomancer is like a mash-up of Dresden and Inkheart. It acknowledges its debts to canon rather explicitly, which made it work better for me than it otherwise would. The story itself is suffused with the love of books, of old libraries, of fantasy and science fiction. Reading it I was reminded of the first time I read “Bimbos of the Death Sun”, where the author was speaking directly to the fannish part of myself. Luckily, Hines shows none of the accompanying scorn that Bimbos indulged in: nothing here but admiration (and the threat of obsession, which I think is fair.)
I’ll admit, I prefer Hines’ writing style in non-fiction, but I am a spoiled brat when it comes to language in my fantasy. His books are about the story, and the joy of this one drew me in. The romance was cute; I appreciated the conclusion of it, though I can’t say why without giving it away, so I’ll say more after the cut. Despite occasionally resorting to telling, the whole thing hangs together and has the opportunity to indulge in steampunk aesthetic without it seeming contrived.
What I was most disappointed by was the lack of scope. That is, the world building seemed to center around the hero. There were mentions of things going on off-screen and broader society, but it didn’t really seem like there was a world going on around the action. I found the linear, personal, first-person narrative in this case made the world less believable and immersive. Perhaps future books will expand on other character’s arcs and add depth to the world; early Dresden had a similar problem if I remember. I think it is partially that this is high-fantasy, epic hero quest (even if the hero is flawed and keeps needing to get rescued), whereas I have been reading mostly low-fantasy, even-the-epic-heroes-are-imbedded-in-a-complex-world-they-can-barely-influence recently. I know that plenty of people do not share my preference here; I hope the book finds the audience it deserves.

If you like competently-executed urban fantasy full of the love for the written word, I can recommend it.

At the end of the book the nymph-character decides she wants to date two people at once, so she, in her magical-codependence, doesn’t get lost in either of them. Considering how I’d been cringing with the magical-codependence shtick it was a satisfying solution. Her reason for going poly is one of the main advantages I have seen of the lifestyle; it can keep people from getting isolated and lost in our dyad-obsessed insular culture and from becoming resentful trying to be everything some other person needs.
On the other hand, relationships involve more than one party and one of the keys of effective poly is actually finding people who also find that it enriches their lives, which she didn’t do here. I’m not saying that is bad writing.  She is making this up on the spot, but it makes her seem self-involved and a bit trite. It is also sort of explained as how un-human she is, when I have seen it be a human impulse.

It might be that that partially made the book feel isolated in my mind; it is the last scene in the book and seemed to be weirdly disconnected.  Especially since the hero has read science fiction, you’d think he’d have come across this before and maybe put a little bit of thought into what it was he actually wanted from a relationship (as opposed to what society tells us to want or what he assumed relationships would look like.)  He didn’t reach into Heinline (in all his misogyny/heteronormativity) or Butler or Le Guine or Bradley, much less The Ethical Slut or Kaldera.  There is no sense that this this anything other than brand new and novel and fae. Then again, even in SF/F I might be from a weird part of the world where it seems like such things are taken for granted.

So, I appreciated the handling of what could have been an anti-feminist character in anyone else’s hands, but the eventual conclusion could have used more context for it to ring true to me. I would like to state for the record that if the hero gets a boyfriend as well in the next book I will absolutely forgive all, especially if the nymph sets them up and even if this leads to the X-Men problem of too many characters on stage at all times.