Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Review: Codex Born by Jim Hines

Summary (courtesy of Goodreads): Isaac Vainio’s life was almost perfect. He should have known it couldn’t last.

Living and working as a part-time librarian in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Isaac had finally earned the magical research position he dreamed of with Die Zwelf Portenære, better known as the Porters. He was seeing a smart, fun, gorgeous dryad named Lena Greenwood. He had been cleared by Johannes Gutenberg to do libriomancy once again, to reach into books and create whatever he chose from their pages. Best of all, it had been more than two months since anything tried to kill him.

And then Isaac, Lena, and Porter psychiatrist Nidhi Shah are called to the small mining town of Tamarack, Michigan, where a pair of septuagenarian werewolves have discovered the brutally murdered body of a wendigo.

What begins as a simple monster-slaying leads to deeper mysteries and the discovery of an organization thought to have been wiped out more than five centuries ago by Gutenberg himself. Their magic rips through Isaac’s with ease, and their next target is Lena Greenwood.

They know Lena’s history, her strengths and her weaknesses. Born decades ago from the pages of a pulp fantasy novel, she was created to be the ultimate fantasy woman, shaped by the needs and desires of her companions. Her powers are unique, and Gutenberg’s enemies mean to use her to destroy everything he and the Porters have built. But their plan could unleash a far darker power, an army of entropy and chaos, bent on devouring all it touches.

The Upper Peninsula is about to become ground zero in a magical war like nothing the world has seen in more than five hundred years. But the more Isaac learns about Gutenberg and the Porters, the more he questions whether he’s fighting for the right cause.

One way or another, Isaac must find a way to stop a power he doesn’t fully understand. And even if he succeeds, the outcome will forever change him, the Porters, and the whole world.

And here's what I thought:  This is the second book in this series, after Libriomancer, which I really enjoyed.   In this book, Hines seamlessly picks up from where the first book left off, and while he continues that storyline, he spends some time also giving some back-story to Lena Greenwood, who we meet in the first book.

One of the things I really like about Jim Hines is that he writes a great female character; he spends a lot of time making Lena seem very realistic, in her mannerisms, and her emotions, especially.  He also treats her fairly ---- and what I mean by this is that he doesn't spend tons of time describing what she looks like, but instead, spends time creating who she is.  I'm mentioning this because it seems like there are a lot of stories where the male character is rounded out as a realistic person, while any female characters have the focus more on what they look like, and how they thus relate to the male character.   This is something I find annoying when it happens.  If you don't do this to a male character, then don't do it to a female character, okay?

But, I wouldn't expect anything less than this from Jim Hines.  I've read other books by him, and I've met him at conventions, and I read his blog on a regular basis.   He's a nice guy, and he's an intelligent guy.  And, I agree with his views on a lot of things .... especially on issues of gender.

So, that being said, I'll get back to my views on the book.  I liked everything about this book, except that it had to end, and that I now have to wait for the next book.   This is something that always happens with a good book, doesn't it?  You get all excited about it, and you sit down, and get all caught up in it, and then ..... you're done, and you have to wait for the author to write the next one.     I think Hines does a nice job of combining storytelling that has elements of humor, and drama, with characters that are interesting (and frankly, people I'd like to hang out with in real life).   I love his idea of libriomancy, where talented people can reach into books and pull things out. But, I also really enjoyed his exploration of things like werewolves, and dryads, and how these people relate to the people around them.  The background he gives Lena is really interesting, and now, I feel like I know her character so much better.  And, okay.... I also really like Smudge, the fire spider.  I mean, he's so cool.....

I get the impression that Jim Hines really enjoys writing, and that makes his books a treat to read.

First lines:  As a libriomancer and a researcher, this was one of the moments I lived for.  I loved that this brilliant, untrained fourteen-year-old girl had just shattered an entire body of magical theory.  I hated the fact that I couldn't figure out how she had done it.


redhead said...

i LOVED Codex Born, thought it was better than Libriomancer. Lena really made the book for me, i don't know of any other character like her, anywhere. and I liked how Gutenberg isn't exactly the super awesome wonderful person we were led to believe. . .

Douglas said...

This book was great. Jim tells a fun story at a great non-stop pace. Waiting for the next book is always the hardest part. But at least Jim doesn't write like George RR Martin or Patrick Rothfuss. I'll take a 1 - 2 year wait over a 6 year wait any day.

Jen said...

Thanks for the comments! Redhead, I agree - Lena really made this book for me, too.
And Szever - YES, very glad that Jim Hines isn't following in the footsteps of Martin or Rothfuss (who, by the way, seems to have no information about a third book at all....)

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