Bingo Review 3: Pandemic. I’m going a little out of my planned order here, but that’s just the way things turned out. I’d been in a weird head-space for a few days, and I went to a bookstore a little further away because they had something I wanted that the shop closer didn’t. It turns out the place I went had a buy 2 get 1 free deal on manga and graphic novels, so I picked up Magus of the Library 1. That turned out to be exactly what I needed, and I had to go back about 2 days later to get volumes 2 and 3. Pandemic funk resolved.
I’m the sort of book geek who like both the contents and the physical attributes of books; needless to say, I don’t go a lot for ebooks. I get them, I don’t have strong feeling about them, but I don’t prefer to use them myself. This is exactly the kind of approach taken to books in Magus of the Library which is also a bit fantasy and a bit predictable but still interesting, so it was a perfect pick-me-up.
The story is set is a kind of desert region, and the hero, Theo, doesn’t look like anyone else around thanks to some mixed heritage that gets hinted at as being significant later on. As a kid, he gets picked on for his blond hair and blue eyes, but mostly for his pointy elf-like ears. He’s smart, and goes to school because his sister insists he gets an education to make a better life for himself. One day a group of kafna ride into town to inspect the local library, into which Theo has to sneak (the librarian there won’t let him in because he’s from the slums). Kafna are librarians from the central library in Aftzaak which seems to serve a similar function to what the Great Library of Alexandrian must have done in the ancient world; it collects and protects the knowledge of the world. Theo is so impressed by one of the kafna that he decides that’s what he wants to be when he grows up. He’s eventually granted access to the local library when he saves it (and the head librarian) from a fire and the head librarian gets a scolding from the kafna about how books should be available to anyone from the library, no matter what or who they are (a noble, feel-good and somewhat relevant ideal to today’s world). Fast forward a few years, and Theo’s on his way to take the notoriously difficult test to become a kanfa (because of course it is (aren’t they always) and of course he must (he’s the hero, so obvs). On the way he has some adventures, makes a few friends, and arrives to the city. He makes it through several further obstacles, during which there are several not so subtle hints he’s likely going to become some sort of chosen one type savior of the world (and books) someday. When he leaves Aftzaak to return to his little village, he doesn’t know if he’s passed the exam or not, and that “shocking” reveal is what ends volume 3.
There’s a lot you can already tell here about hos this whole story is likely to turn out, and the characters are similarly predictable in a lot of ways: the librarian who so impressed Theo is climbing the ranks herself (Sedona’s got ‘personality’ and strength/power, and Theo hasn’t reconnected with her yet, but she’s got her eye on him…), the advisor-helpers (both older, don’t look nearly as powerful as they obviously are), the range of friends Theo starts making (mostly female, because kafna is one of few occupations open to women; as long as this doesn’t turn harem romance, it’s an interesting dynamic) include the mysterious foreign one, the one with both street and books smarts, the awkward one, the standoff-ish one who needs to learn a lesson (and does, with Theo’s help, of course), the animals, etc.
The thing that I really enjoyed besides the slightly predictable adventure is that there really are some scattered facts about physical books scattered throughout, including methods for patching old manuscripts, the history of the book from scroll to codex, handling a book by the spine (“A book’s spine is like a person’s. It’s important to treat it kindly.”), and so on.
The generic book themed adventure in an interesting world that includes books as well as some culture/history is quite promising. Unfortunately, I now have to wait until late October I think for the next volume. I can absolutely relate to the bit in volume 2 where there’s a line of people waiting outside a bookshop for a new release and to the kid throwing a fit because his mother can’t buy him the next issue of a story and he doesn’t want to wait for it from the library.