It’s that time of year again. Everyone is going back to school and so is Jim C. Hines’s Isaac Vainio from Libriomancer.
Isaac Vainio is a Libriomancer, a member of the secret organization founded five centuries ago by Johannes Gutenberg. Libriomancers are gifted with the ability to magically reach into books and draw forth objects. When Isaac is attacked by vampires that leaked from the pages of books into our world, he barely manages to escape. To his horror he discovers that vampires have been attacking other magic-users as well, and Gutenberg has been kidnapped.
With the help of a motorcycle-riding dryad who packs a pair of oak cudgels, Isaac finds himself hunting the unknown dark power that has been manipulating humans and vampires alike. And his search will uncover dangerous secrets about Libriomancy, Gutenberg, and the history of magic. . . .
Amazon | The Copper River High School library smelled exactly the same as it had seven years ago: lemon wood polish, old books, and the pungent floral perfume Mrs. Sorvala used to cover up the smell of her cigarettes.
The sound of commencement ceremonies whispered through the windows, competing with the hum of computer fans. I walked past twenty-year-old encyclopedias, a tattered dictionary on a podium, and a display of relatively new magazines in clear plastic binders. Toward the back of the library, I found the science fiction section.
Fewer than fifty books, but back when I had been a student, this corner had been my Fortress of Solitude.
I crouched and touched the blackened spots on the old carpet. They had replaced the burnt shelves and several squares of carpet, but they hadn’t bothered with these small circles, like tiny footprints. Mrs. Sorvala had blamed the fire on stoners lighting up in the library. I hadn’t tried to correct her. Trying to explain that a flaming spider had crawled out of a book and tried to hide beneath the shelves would have caused far more trouble.
I remembered flinging the book away—what was the title, again? A sword and sorcery paperback by some midlist hack. I had retreated to the library after another argument with my grandfather. He wanted me to apply for a job at the mine. “An English degree? Might as well blow forty thousand on toilet paper. At least then you’ll get something useful for your money.”
I had lost myself in the story. Literally. I had imagined the goblin and his pet fire-spider so clearly I could feel the heat wafting from its body, the tickling heat of his light footsteps. And then…
“Not the books!” I had tried to shoo him away from the shelves with the paperback, but that only freaked him out more. He scurried up to the top of the shelf, then jumped. He hit the ground and lay there stunned for a moment, flames flickering over his black and red body. I swatted out the burning papers on top of the shelf, but the noise frightened him, and he bolted between my legs beneath the shelves.
I groaned and dropped to my hands and knees. Mrs. Sorvala would kill me for this. Where was the damn fire extinguisher?
Smoke wafted from the inch-high space below the bottom shelf, and then he was sprinting out again. He emerged into the open, spun in a circle, and flattened himself to the carpet.
He had come out of the book. Maybe I could put him back? I opened the paperback, cracking the spine, and shoved it toward him. All I managed to do was set the book on fire. By the time I extinguished the pages, he was running for the door.
“No!” I jumped past him and spun like a soccer goalie. He froze and stared up at me. Neither of us blinked. Then he strode up to my shoe, reached out with his forelegs, and set my shoelace on fire.
He stepped back, then glared, as if he was daring me to try to stomp him. His defiance lasted until I moved my foot, at which point he fled like a frightened child. He scrambled up another shelf, setting several more books alight.
And why wouldn’t he be afraid? I had yanked him out of a dark cave into an alien world. Everything and everyone he had known was gone. The sights, the smells, even the colors were different.
I stomped out my shoelace, then dropped to one knee. I searched for an ant, a dead fly, anything I could offer, but the janitors did too good a job. All I had were some leftover jellybeans from my lunch. I pulled the baggie from my pocket, grabbed a black one, and rolled it toward the spider.
He crept closer, never taking his eyes off of me. I held my breath as the flames started to spread. If he didn’t calm down soon—
He snatched the jellybean with his legs. His mandibles crushed into it, and I heard a faint sizzling sound as he tried to cook it.
“There you go,” I said, easing past. I yanked the burning books from the shelf and tried to stomp them out, but I wasn’t fast enough.
The school building was almost a hundred years old, but they had modernized the sprinkler system in the mid-nineties. Water sprayed down from the ceiling.
The spider leapt from the shelf onto my shirt, still clutching the jellybean in his mouth. He crawled up my chest and cowered from the rain.
“You’re okay,” I said, cupping a hand over his body. I hurried out the door and headed for the locker room, hearing the stomp of running feet behind me…
“Isaac Vainio? What are you doing here?”
I blinked, the sound of Mrs. Sorvala’s rusty voice yanking me back into the present. I smiled and shook her hand. “Just reminiscing.”
She fixed me with a mock glare. “You’re not smoking, are you?”
“I’ve got too many other bad habits,” I said, laughing. “Actually, I had something for you.” I pulled an envelope from my back pocket and handed it to her. “A donation for the library. There’s only one condition. You have to use at least half of it on the science fiction section.”
She opened the envelope, and her eyes widened. “Isaac, I can’t—”
“You can, and you will.” My smile grew. “I never would have gotten where I am today without this library.”
Smudge was waiting on the dashboard of my truck when I emerged from the school. He liked to watch the passing scenery, and in the winter, he did a great job of defrosting the windshield.
“You ready, partner?” I asked as I started the engine. Some idiot had managed to pull Bubonic Plague from a history text down in Ypsilanti, and if I didn’t get there soon with some healing magic, we were going to have a full-blown epidemic. I checked the glovebox to make sure my copy of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe was still there. Lucy’s healing cordial ought to take care of any sick patients, and then it was just a matter of quarantining and sanitizing.
“Come on, Smudge.” I pulled out of the lot and turned down the street. “Let’s go save the world.”
Meet Jim C. Hines!
Jim C. Hines’ latest book is LIBRIOMANCER, a modern-day fantasy about a magic-wielding librarian, a dryad, a secret society founded by Johannes Gutenberg, a flaming spider, and an enchanted convertible. He’s also the author of the PRINCESS series of fairy tale retellings as well as the humorous GOBLIN QUEST trilogy. His short fiction has appeared in more than 40 magazines and anthologies, including Realms of Fantasy, Turn the Other Chick, and Sword & Sorceress XXI. Jim lives in Michigan with his wife and two children. He’s currently hard at work on the second book in the MAGIC EX LIBRIS series. Online, he can be found at http://www.jimchines.com.
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Want to purchase Jim’s novels?
Magic ex Libris
- Libriomancer at Amazon | Book Depository
- Codex Born at Book Depository (August 6, 2013)
Jig the Goblin
- Goblin Quest at Amazon | Book Depository
- Goblin Hero at Amazon | Book Depository
- Goblin War at Amazon | Book Depository
- The Legend of Jig Dragonslayer at Amazon | Book Depository
- The Stepsister Scheme at Amazon | Book Depository
- The Mermaid’s Madness at Amazon | Book Depository
- Red Hood’s Revenge at Amazon | Book Depository
- The Snow Queen’s Shadow at Amazon | Book Depository
Red’s Tale at Amazon | Book Depository
Goblin Tales at Amazon
Kitemaster: And Other Stories at Amazon
Please help spread the word: Tweet: Go back to school with 30 authors while #giveaways ensue during #SchoolsIn (Sept 1-30) http://tinyurl.com/LESchoolsIn – #paranormal #contests #UF
Aw, Smudge! Poor little guy. I think it worked out for him, though — Isaac’s a good person to have his loyalty. :)
Thanks for the short, Jim!
i am deathly afraid of spiders, but Smudge can ride on my shoulder anytime.
That was very cute. I will definitely be checking this book out.
Great story! I’m even more excited to try this book now. Thanks for the post!