Today’s Book: “Libriomancer” by Jim C. Hines
The Plot: Sparkling vampires are running amok in Michigan, and it’s up to Isaac – a “libriomancer” who can pull fictional items out of books – to stop them. But the vampires may only be the tip of the iceberg…
Autistic Character(s): Nicola Pallas, the Regional Master of the Porters (a magical organization including libriomancers and other magicians).
So, I will say this up front. Nicola Pallas is cool. She’s also hardly in this book at all. She shows up for a few scenes, and they’re good scenes, but that’s about it. Her role in this book is to be the trope of the authority figure who tries to pull Isaac off the case when things get out of hand. She does play that role well, and her decisions are ones that make good logical sense based on the information and concerns that she has.
What we do see of Pallas, in terms of her characterization, is fun. She’s a bard who does magic by using music, and who keeps an inordinate number of magical creatures as pets. She has a rather flat affect, but Hines never confuses this with actually having no feelings; it’s clear that she is, at times, fearful and concerned and having other appropriate emotions about the plot, even if she expresses them differently than others. I will admit I have a weakness for steely, cool-headed women in positions of power, and Pallas’s snarkily logical messages to Isaac play right into that:
“Deb said someone had hacked our communications,” I said warily. “I’ve already had one Porter try to kill me this week.”
“This connection is now secure. We’ve heard nothing further from Mrs. DeGeorge [the Porter who tried to kill Isaac]. Her apartment was empty, and she appears to have gone underground. Perhaps literally. As for myself, either I’ve been turned by our enemy and therefore already know any information you might share, or else I remain human and Regional Master of the Porters, in which case I would appreciate your report.”
That certainly sounded like Pallas.
Aside from this speaking style, Pallas’s autism also comes across in small gestures, such as the fidgeting she constantly does with her jewelry. Isaac as a narrator isn’t very well-informed about autism, but his adventuring partner, Lena, is able to fill him in:
“How exactly did Pallas react when you told her I had found the other libriomancer, and the thing that came through the book after us?”
“I have a harder time reading autistics, but-”
She blinked. “You didn’t know?”
“I don’t have access to her files.”
“Neither do I,” Lena said sharply. “But I’ve learned a thing or two living with Nidhi. I’ve been here for four days, long enough to get a sense of Nicola Pallas. She doesn’t express her emotions the same way you or I do. I think she’s frightened, though. When I first described what happened, she walked away from me in midsentence and started making phone calls. When she finished, she was playing with her bracelets and moving around like she wanted to run but didn’t know where.”
“She knows something,” I muttered. “Why wouldn’t she tell me?”
“Maybe because she knows how close you came to dying,” Lena said sharply.
I had no answer to that.
That’s pretty much all that happens, though. “Libriomancer” is a fun book, but readers who want a story specifically about Nicola Pallas should instead read Hines’s short story, “Chupacabra’s Song“.
The Verdict: Marginal
Ethics Statement: I have occasionally corresponded with Jim C. Hines. I read his book by checking out a physical copy from my local library. All opinions expressed here are my own.
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