Let’s start with the blurb again. (from Goodreads
The fourth installment in the popular Magic Ex Libris series.When Isaac Vainio helped to reveal magic to the world, he dreamed of a new millennium of magical prosperity. One year later, things aren’t going quite as he’d hoped. A newly-formed magical organization wants open war with the mundane world. Isaac’s own government is incarcerating “potential supernatural enemies” in prisons and internment camps.
Surrounded by betrayal and political intrigue, Isaac and a ragtag group of allies must evade pursuit both magical and mundane, expose a conspiracy by some of the most powerful people in the world, and find a path to a better future. But the key to victory may lie with Isaac himself, as he struggles to incorporate everything he’s learned into a new, more powerful form of libriomancy.
It’s book four. I don’t recommend starting here unless you’re comfortable dropping into the deep waters of a richly imagined world. (I do it all the time, but I enjoy a lot of things I don’t recommend, necessarily.) The series starts with with Libriomancer, so if you want to read everything else first, it won’t take you long to catch up.
Still here? Okay. The good: everything that makes a good magical book set in a contemporary setting good — action, snappy dialogue, interesting systems and descriptions thereof, entertaining people who are easy to picture and even easier to like. (or hate. as applicable.) The bad? Errrm. All the usual suspects that can make an otherwise good magical book set in a contemporary setting a bit annoying. Mileage will vary with how long I’ve been viewing the same scenery. (And when I read this, I’d been on a contemporary fantasy binge, so I’ll take the hint it’s time for me to move onward to some scifi or classic fantasy to clear my tolerance settings.)
What are the annoyances? The enemies, basically. Over-reaching government regulation and bureaucratic inefficiency create individual obstacles. Power-hungry ambitious conspirators use law and prejudice to push their own agenda behind the scenes. And of course greedy, ambitious corporate managers who value profit over persons are involved.
It’s the of course that got me. A powerful minority being treated as a dire threat to be controlled/suppressed/segregated is realistic, yes. Chaos knows that’s the premise for my alternate reality world, but…BUT. Immediate, systemic paranoia and wholesale suppression and discrimination are not the ONLY way forward from that starting point. Big Fearful Majority constantly seeking to destroy what they do not understand isn’t the only way history plays out that scenario.
Yes, a set-up in which Big Everybody maneuvers people into oppressing the chosen minority , countered by heroic individualism, revolutionary passion, and the Power of Personal Relationships is a great way to explore important human themes, but it is far from the ONLY response societies make to new powerful developments.
Except in contemporary fantasy. There, that plot line is the inescapable winner. Le. Sigh.
Yes, I know, I write superpower world, but I include superpower stories in this fantasy category. It’s hand-wavy woo science. And look at all the stoylines that fit: X Men. Civil War. A bunch I can’t think of at the moment.