New Year and new hopes for Cannonball 9! Things are getting off to a good start as I finished “Revisionary” yesterday and am putting up my review today. I believe John Scalzi was the gateway to my discovering Jim C. Hines and I so glad to have found him as he not only an incredibly talented writer but a stand up human being as well (it’s always wonderful when those two intersect). In 2012 wanting to discuss the ways women are portrayed on cover art in fantasy and science fiction Jim, per his blog, “I contorted myself into the poses of women on various SF/F covers. Things snowballed from there.”
His humor and sensitivity transfer over to his writing as well. “Revisionary” is the fourth and I believe final book in the Magic Ex Libris series as the main character’s story arc has come to a nice resting place at the end of this book. It should be noted my track record for realizing whether a series is over or not has been crap lately. However, the world is so rich it feels to me as though there is lots of room to explore events in the past or project into the future. I sincerely hope Jim revisits his creation.
The series is built on the premise that magic exists but has been kept hidden from the world by a group known as the Porters, an organization founded more than 500 years ago by Johannes Gutenberg, who is still very much alive thanks to magic. Now here is the clever bit. Magic in this world is called Libriomancy because if you have magic you can literally reach into books and pull out artifacts from the stories. Because of the collected belief of readers, libriomancers can reach into books and touch upon the magic of that collected belief to create objects from the books.
I can’t even begin to list all the cool things that the characters pull from books throughout the series. There are limitations of course. You can’t pull Captain Nemo’s Nautilus out of a book due to size. However, you can pull Lucy’s healing cordial from the Narnia books and instantaneously cure all damage to a person (even defects a person was born with). Books can be overused and need to have a resting period before they can be used again. Our main character, Isaac Vainio, is a magic using hero that wears a specially tailored jacket to store books, in order to create magic with them. I fell in love with the concept immediately.
Not all good things come from books. Vampirism, werewolves and other mystical beings are now in our world due to magically sensitive people accidentally getting bitten/cursed/etc. when reaching into a story. Protecting humanity from such creatures is one job of the Porters. Porters also have the ability to seal books so that particularly dangerous items can never be created. But above all, Porters must keep magic secret. This basic tenet is where Isaac struggles with the Porters and defines his entire character arc throughout the series.
Isaac isn’t alone on this journey and one awesome aspect of these books is his relationship with Lena Greenwood. Lena is a magically created dryad and certified bad ass fighter. Someone pulled an acorn from the book she was from and she grew into a fully formed dryad in our world. Lena as a person is shaped from the story she was created from, meaning in certain matters she doesn’t have a choice in how to behave as she was written to behave a certain way. This results in Lena loving psychiatrist to the Porters, Nidhi Shaw, and Isaac. Nidhi and Isaac are conflicted as they don’t want to take advantage of Lena’s nature due to her having been magically created. It’s lovely to watch the three of them navigate a tricky relationship and beautiful to see where they end together. While not your typical romance there are touching and sweet moments, as well as some sexy times that are tastefully done sprinkled throughout the series. It’s nice to see a non-heteronormative relationship front and center.
Isaac, Lena, Nidhi and many others go on an amazing magical journey across the Magic Ex Libris books. “Revisionary” is a satisfying conclusion to what is an awesome series. If you’ve ever dreamed of being able to wear a shield from “Dune”, wield Excalibur, or walk in seven league boots these are the books you’ve been looking for.