Top critical review
A Codex Born Every Minute
on 17 November 2014
Bands are famed for having that tricky second album syndrome, but the same can be said for authors when writing the second book in a series. Jim C Hines’ ‘Libriomancer’ was the first in a series that blasted onto the scene with an infectious enthusiasm that allowed you to forgive its one or two minor flaws. Could the follow up continue the momentum, or will it stagnate?
The world of the Libriomancer is a rich and evocative one, especially for anybody who has a love of reading. The lead, Isaac Vainio, is not only a Librarian, but is also part of a magical force that uses their power to pull objects out of novels – that sounds amazing! It also sounds a little confusing, as was the case towards the end of book 1. ‘Codex Born’ starts soon after this and hits the ground running; action to the left of you and a little confusion to the right.
Whilst ‘Libriomancer’ introduced magical books and the variations of vampires that have appeared over the years, ‘Codex’ introduces further layers. Add werewolves to the undead horde and then a rogue magician who has got their hands on a powerful army of robotic insects. Isaac must find a way of bringing peace between the races and taking out the bad egg. There does not appear to be much time to get on with a real life.
This is the one single elements of ‘Codex’ that makes it harder to read than it should be. At no point does Hines give the reader a breather; those moments of calm that allow the characters and the reader the time to reflect on what is happening. ‘Codex’ is a rollercoaster of a book, but at times it threatens to come off the rails with the sheer amount of new ideas that are thrown onto the page. In the two books that make up the series so far, enough has happened that could have stretched over five.
I for one cannot feel too badly about a book that’s only real sin is being enthusiastic and wanting to entertain. This is surely what ‘Codex’ does. Any fan of urban fantasy will immediately feel in capable hands as Hines takes you on an adventure packed to the gills. The use of magic from books still works brilliantly and the mechanics behind the magic is further explored. It is touches like this that make a fantasy fan come back for more. How powerful is the magic within a book? Do the more readers make the more power?
As well as having a strong universe, ‘Codex’ also has great characters. Isaac is a good lead; although I did find him jumping from making mature to immature decisions a little too often. He is surrounded by other Libriomancers and magical people that flesh out the universe. The action in this sequel is actually better than that seen in the first. The tone is slightly darker and the stakes feel much higher. The tension builds as the book moves towards an electric conclusion.
Fans of urban fantasy will get a lot out of ‘Codex Born’, it feels immediately recognisable, but has its own unique ideas. People new to the genre may find the pace a little off putting; Hines has sacrificed some of the character development in favour of all out action. However, as someone who likes their novels frothy, funny and action packed this is just my cup of tea – in fact I may reach into a copy of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and get myself a cuppa! Original review on bookbag.co.uk