Thursday, October 9, 2014

A Dryad, A Wizard And A Burning Spider Walk Into A Mess

Hello All, how is your week going?  I'm a wee bit exhausted, but hey I'm still alive and kicking so there is that.  How about a rambling?  Cool.  Today let's ramble about Codex Born, the second book in the Magic Ex Libris series by Jim C. Hines.  You may remember my absolute geek out love of the first book in the series, so you can imagine my excitement to start this second book.  Unfortunately, while still a good book, it did not live up to my admittedly over the top expectations.  But first, as always SPOILERS AHEAD!
We left our intrepid Libriomancer Isaac being reinstated as a researcher for the Porters and tasked with finding an ancient evil that seems to inhabit whatever realm it is that libriomancers pull from.  He is happily...if awkwardly in a relationship with Lena the dryad, and by proxy with Lena's other lover the psychiatrist Nidhi. At the start of each chapter, we get a bit of Lena's history.  From her "birth" as a tree, to her meeting various lovers and seeing how it affects her personality.  Isaac is working with Jeneta, a teenage girl who has shattered the notion that libriomancy does not work with e-readers.  While working with her he gets a call to investigate a potential wendigo murder.  While investigating, Lena's tree (which she lives in) gets attacked and infested with magical, mechanical bugs.  After some investigating they discover that a former colleague, who was a mechanical genius, created the bugs and in some way sent them to his abusive father when he died.  His father August Harrison is a bit of a sadistic freak, and has been recruited by an ancient, pre-Porter libriomancer like group to help return the souls of their leaders, who were imprinted in books hundreds of years ago for their own safety.  This leads to Isaac and his team investigating a group led by a person called Bi Sheng, who was able to use and teach a form of libriomancy before the Porter leader Gutenberg
started using it.  At some point Gutenberg decided the group was dangerous and attacked them, to save the teachings a group of students essentially imprinted themselves into specially prepared books to hopefully be retrieved at a later time.  This is where August comes into play.  The group who has been guarding the books recruited August and his mechanical bugs to kidnap Lena, after they learned of her potential ability to use her tree to create new bodies for the trapped souls.  Lena does this for one of the book's and the result is a body for the soul, but it is soon discovered that the soul was corrupted by the same dark entities that Isaac was researching.  During the battles we continue to learn that Gutenberg is much more of a dictator style leader then anything and he is willing to go to great lengths to protect his wizardly arts.  He says he has to be so harsh as to protect the world from the dark entities that are always looking to come through.  Chaos and death and fighting and geeky references occur and Isaac burns himself out in the final battle.  While this battle is happening he hears/sees an entity calling itself Meridiana before being overcome.  The good guys win, albeit at a high cost and we end with Jeneta apparently being infested by entities from her e-reader, setting up the second book.
Ok, so first the good.  Lena's story and how it unfolded was my favorite part of this book.  It was great to see where she came from and how she got where she is.  I enjoyed the concept of taking two lovers giving her a form of freedom.  If you remember in the last book we learned that she takes on the personality of her current lover and will do whatever it takes to keep them happy, so the idea of having two lovers with different personalities gives her some choice in who she is and what she does.  I liked the addition of Bi Sheng's group and their history, it adds an international/historical spin I find is lacking in many European centric fantasy stories.  I liked that the group was also not inherently good or bad, they just were and wanted a way to survive and return their long lost leaders. Also the burning spider Smudge will forever be AWESOME!  Now what I did not enjoys so much.  In the first book, the rules of the magic seemed fairly clear cut and made sense.  In this book (and I realize it is part of the story) the rules kind of explode and are altered to fit what needs to be done.  I get it in
some ways, Isaac is supposed to be a bit of a rouge and able to research and find new ways to use his magic...which is a pretty realistic idea, it just seemed he found ways around pretty much anything that got in his way with very little issues.   In general it seemed that "magic" and it's "rules" were played with fast and loose in this book, depending on the person magic could pretty much be used as a pat answer for almost everything, which to me gets a bit annoying, and I feel a bit of a cop out.  I also found the story to be a bit more muddled then the last book.  The histories don't seem consistent and their is a lot of vagueness about the "bad guys".  I'm not sure if this is to make a big reveal in later books, or the author does not have a clear idea of who the bad entities are or how they work.  Gutenberg is a big bully, and I am never sure why this group of obviously smart and talanted people follow him no questions asked.  I understand that he is the founder, has hundreds of years more experiance, and is a bit scary, but there is a lot more of them.  This is definitely a book in a series, and if you have not read the first book you will be hopelessly lost (in fact I had to go back to the first one to remind myself of what was going on), which is fine if the whole series ends up being a big cohesive story.  Overall it was a solid book, and I think if I did not fall so head over heels with the first book, I would have not been so nit picky about this second one.  I give this book 7 out of 10 enchanted acorns.
What is the feeling between love and dissapointment?  Can a 10 out of 10 book ever be followed?
How badly do you want the power libriomancy?


  1. OH MY GOSH! That's my Steampunk Surveillance Arthropod! Maybe it's a sign I should read this book?