Review: “Codex Born,” Jim C. Hines

Pros: Funny as hell and incredibly moving
Rating: 5 out of 5

Visit Jim C. Hines online.


Isaac Vainio is a libriomancer–a sorcerer whose magic consists of bringing the contents of books to life. He’s also in love with a dryad, Lena, who was created from the pages of a book. She hasn’t just helped him out in his adventures; she’s saved his life in impossible circumstances. Now an evil mastermind wants to use her abilities in ways that will unleash a hungry, devouring power, and he’s willing to threaten all Lena and Isaac hold dear in order to get what he wants. Vicious wendigo and an unstoppable army of metal insects are only the start of Isaac’s worries.


Jim C. Hines’ Codex Born is book two in his Magic Ex Libris series, following Libriomancer. The series stars Isaac; he’s a libriomancer and belongs to a secret society of sorcerers who protect humanity from all of the things they should never know about. The Porters were created by Gutenberg, who first created the art of libriomancy.

…Or did he? Isaac is starting to wonder how much of the Porters’ history is accurate, and how much has been left out or rewritten to suit Gutenberg’s needs. Did Gutenberg kill all of his rivals? And if so, was it with good reason? How much does Gutenberg truly know about the ravenous Ghost Army that threatens to devour sorcerers’ minds? It’s hard to work within an organization you no longer trust, and Isaac’s going to need everyone’s help to protect the town he grew up in.

Isaac’s fears are easy to get caught up in, and I love that there are no simple, black-and-white answers. That’s one consistent thing I love about Hines’s books: he can write things that are whimsical and laugh-out-loud funny, and they also have depth and complexity to them.

Speaking of laugh-out-loud, Codex Born made me laugh nearly as much and often as Libriomancer did…

I liked to tell myself I had chosen the shock-gun to practice with because it was a practical, multi-purpose weapon. At its highest setting, it could take down a zombified elephant, and at its lowest it would knock a human unconscious with no long-term damage. Nor would it draw undue attention, being designed to mimic an ordinary twenty-first-century handgun.

Those were all good and valid reasons, but the truth was, I picked this one because I got to shoot evil with lightning bolts.

…while still conveying the touching poignancy of its characters’ story:

The more we narrow the definition of beauty, the more beauty we shut out of our lives.

I loved the plot of Codex Born. I loved seeing more of the dynamics between Isaac, Lena, and Nidhi. There’s more about the vampires and werewolves, and it’s fascinating. The gearwork insects provide an implacable and all-too-terrifying enemy, balanced neatly by the viciousness of the obvious villain (yet, he doesn’t lack depth at all) and the much more ambiguous nature of the villain’s allies. It’s also fascinating to see Hines address e-readers within the context of libriomancy.

Codex Born drew me in and didn’t let me go until I’d turned the last page. Now I just have to find a way to avoid going insane while waiting for the next book to come out!

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