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Tell Me – Jim Hines

(Crossposted from Jennifer Brozek)

Jim Hines is a friend of mine, a great writer, and I love these books. I think all readers and writers want to know what it would be like to pull something--a lightsaber, a wand, the grail--from a book to have for their very own. Here, he talks about his protagonist's greatest love.

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One of my favorite things about Libriomancer and Codex Born is the protagonist’s attitude toward magic. Isaac Vainio is a librarian and shameless geek, with the ability to pull things from books—phasers, light-sabers, magic rings, pretty much anything that fits through the pages.

And he loves it. Isaac is completely and utterly in love with magic … occasionally to the detriment of whatever he’s supposed to be doing at the time. Even when he’s facing steampunk-style insects that escaped from a book and are oddly determined to kill him, a part of Isaac’s mind is distracted by the beauty of their construction, the combination of magic and miniature jewels and gears, the elegance of the metalwork...

He’s constantly asking “What if?” about both the books he reads and magic in the real world. How far could Harry Potter travel with that apparating spell? Did J. K. Rowling’s witches and wizards ever blip over to Mars to explore the planet? Could magic seeds from Piers Anthony’s Xanth series be pulled into our world to revolutionize farming? And where could Isaac get his hands on a magical chronoscope that would let him check out the lost episodes of Doctor Who?

Magic comes with a cost, of course. Overusing a particular book leads to magical charring, damage that spreads through every copy of the book and can make Bad Things happen. Magic also weakens the boundaries between the lirbiomancer and the book, meaning characters from those books can begin to creep into the libriomancer’s mind. And there are the occasional monsters and villains trying to use magic to take over the world.

But the core of the series is about hope and discovery and the thrill of learning something new. It’s about an insatiable need to learn, and to explore the possibilities of magic.

I have nothing against darker, grittier fantasy novels. But there seems to be an awful lot of it these days, where the world is a harsh, ugly place, and magic is a burden to be suffered with stoicism and occasional angst.

Isaac’s life certainly isn’t perfect. Any number of things are busily trying to kill him, his love life is confusing to say the least, and he’s not on the best of terms with Johannes Gutenberg, the centuries-old founder of the world’s magical organization. I mean, what kind of author would I be if I didn’t torment my characters?

But no matter what I put Isaac and his companions through, it never takes away that central thread of joy. The thrill Isaac feels when he discovers something new or finds that a long-understood “rule” of magic was actually more of a guideline.

At the heart of the series is the idea that magic is awesome. And that’s one of the things that makes these stories such an absolute blast to write.