By: Jim C. Hines
“Some people would say it’s a bad idea to bring a fire-spider into a public library.”
This book has everything I love: books, magic, libraries, used book stores, steampunk automatons, except for one major thing. I hate spiders! How could I have overlooked the arachnid sitting atop the protagonist’s shoulder on the very cover of the book? I soon had to reconcile the fact that I would have to find a way to deal with Smudge the fire-spider, or give up the book entirely. I couldn’t abandon the book, so I learned to love Smudge instead.
That’s really saying something. Spiders totally freak me out, and the thought of tarantula-sized Smudge sitting on his master’s shoulder, or retreating into the web in his cage is enough to make me shudder. In the end it was his personality that won me over.
I have a thing for animal companions in books. Maybe it’s a result of too many Disney princess movies when I was young, but I’ve always liked the idea of having a whole bunch of loyal animal friends. There is something about how animal companions communicate with their human friend, whether with actual language or action, that leads to my favorite kind of character development. In Jay Kristoff’s Stormdancer, Buru made the story. Here Smudge adds a wonderful balance to the main character.
This book is so much more than fire-spiders! Who doesn’t want to magically pull items out of books? This ability makes books into weapons in a way that I haven’t enjoyed since the Read or Die anime (if you haven’t seen it, they use paper as weapons, and carry a lot of books…it’s cooler than it sounds). Now add to this Johannes Gutenberg, Ponce de Leon, vampires, madness, a threat to destroy the world, and a main character who geeks out over everything I love (Doctor Who, Firefly, etc.).
Basically, this is an awesome book, and I love where the series seems to be heading. Codex Born is already out, but it might be a little while before I get to it. Even so, I’m looking forward to it. Until next time…