After the game-changing events of Unbound, where the existence of magic and magical creatures were revealed to the world at large, what does one do for an encore? Isaac Vainio’s announcement and the blowing open of centuries-old secrets are, as it turns out, the beginning. Even as Isaac works to try and keep paranoid government agencies and a disturbed public from freaking out, elements from within and without the magic community see the revelation of magic to the world as a chance to advance their own agendas. In this new world order where magic exists, it’s going to take fast feet and thinking, as well as book smarts, for Isaac and his companions to keep the world together.
Revisionary is the fourth and capstone book in the Magic Ex Libris series.
There is a real highlight for me of the Magic Ex Libris series that comes to full fruition in Revisionary. It’s not the strong character arc of Isaac Vainio, who has gone from adventurous and curious librarian living in the U.P. of Michigan to the preeminent Libriomancer in the world
It’s not the wealth of geek references and tie-ins and allusions that replete the Magic Ex Libris series. From star trek phasers to Fred Saberhagen’s book of swords to a spider from Hines’ own world, the author loves to play in the sandbox of taking stuff from other literary works and mixing it into Libriomancy with an enthusiastic zeal. Of COURSE you’d grab Lucy’s cordial from Narnia for an emergency healing potion — why wouldn’t you?
It’s not the wonderful set of secondary characters, all of whom have had hopes, dreams and full fledged character arcs of their own through the series. Some of them rise, and others fall and change in ways that are not at all pleasant, and yet make sense as they have evolved through the series. The fact that the cast ranges across the spectrum of gender, orientation, background and outlook is also a big plus in my book.
The real highlight is that Hines is willing to evolve and change his world in fundamental ways and let us watch it happen and experience it. It seems a lot of fantasy worlds, including urban fantasy ones, run on a conservatism of change of the world by the existence of magic, or the revelation or magic. Things just go on as they always have, and the fabric of the world, which you’d think would be radically altered, never really does. Or even the practice of magic itself doesn’t evolve, and at best is a rediscovery of lost forms rather than an exploration of new ideas. Hines blows these out of the water, with a protagonist willing to explore and poke at the fundamentals of libriomancy, seeking its limits, and changing the practice of it.
This theme from the first three novels gets kicked into high gear with the sting at the end of the third book and explored fully in this fourth volume: What happens when the world at large learns about magic? How does the existence change society? How do vested interests react to its revelation? How does the everyday person react? Hines delightfully explores these questions through characters I have grown to love over the series. Although there is action and adventure, and not mild peril to his characters, the light, frothy, humorous tone of the series is maintained. Hines is not an author whose work is for dark and pitiless reading at the midnight hour, with the shadows closing in. Hines is the kind of author whose work has kept you up at the midnight hour because you are smiling, and laughing, and turning pages avidly to just read one more section before bed.
I suppose that in theory, one could start (or one-and-done) the Magic Ex Libris series by reading this volume. Hines does as good a job as one can in grounding the setup and the callbacks to previous events and aspects of the Magic Ex Libris series world as one can four books in. Since this book is designed to bring closure to the universe as much as is practical to do so, there are a lot of tie-ins to the tangled history of Isaac and his companions, friends, and lovers. That said, this novel really does feel like a send-off letter from Isaac and his companions to his readers, and on that basis, the book not only succeeds, but it moved me. Well done, Mr. Hines.