The Librarians and the Lost Lamp
by Greg Cox
Tor, $15.99, 286 pp
Published: October 2016
Greg Cox does a stellar job of bringing this popular series to life in literary form. Two quests, ten years apart, converge as one of the great, powerful artifacts of all times, lost for centuries, is rediscovered: the lamp of the wish-granting djinn described in the tale of Aladdin. Cool! you may think, now if only I could get my hands on it! The trouble is: brass lamps, even magical ones, are still subject to the physical laws of entropy and metal fatigue, and this one is very old and very, very fragile. Solomon originally designed the lamp to contain a Djinn whose power was matched only by his malignancy, and when - not if - the lamp is worn out, the Djinn will be freed to wreak havoc.
In 2006, Flynn Carsen is the sole and overworked Librarian of the New York City branch of the time-and-space spanning Library. He returns from subduing a modern Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde and retrieving the recipe for the potion that Robert Louis Stevenson imprudently included in his original manuscript, only to be sent right off - short on sleep and very hungry - on a new mission. In war-torn Bagdad, an archive curator named Dr. Shirin Masri has found an ancient manuscript of the Alf Layla, the Tales of the One Thousand Nights and One Night. Flynn is supposed to act on his initiative, ideally to bring the Alf Layla to the Library, but The Library’s peculiar Guardian, Jenkins, warns Flynn that the assignment won’t be easy; not only are there bombs and terrorists, it is extremely likely that The Forty - as in The Forty Thieves - will be after the Alf Lalya as well, hoping that this version will lead them to the Lamp of Aladdin. Sure enough, Flynn is barely in time to save Shirin from being kidnapped. Since he is a Librarian, not a Navy SEAL, he has to rely on his wits and the occasional quasi-magical assistance that keeps Librarians alive for one more day - or not, as the case may be. And boy, does he ever wish he wasn’t the only one! Flynn and Shirin set out to find the grave of Scheherazade, pursued by assassins, in a modern tale worthy of inclusion in The Arabian Nights.
In 2016, a low-stakes inveterate gambler starts winning big in Vegas, and Portland’s Finest Librarians, Baird, Jacob, Cassandra, and Ezekiel, get tasked by the Clipping Book to find out what and why and how. Especially how. Ezekiel, of course, is thrilled to be sent on assignment to Sin City and soon is in his element; Cassandra has a bad moment of sensory overload, but then gets a taste of an adrenaline rush, and comes out a little stronger for it. All the young Librarians get tested to their limits of endurance and resourcefulness when The Forty converge on them and the latest finder of The Lost Lamp.
What makes this book such a delight to read is the perfect blend of characters, action, information, the supernatural, and the progression to a grand finale and denouement. It is so refreshing to have protagonists who are knowledgeable and who play well together. Besides the romantic teasers and geek-out moments, it is hilarious when Jacob goes on a rant about the historical inaccuracies of the casino’s décor; or when he, all unknowingly, resorts to the same trick to foil the second-in-command of The Forty as Flynn used ten years before. Also, there are numerous references to incidents that happened in the show, so there is good continuity. Lots of fun! ~~ Chris Wozney
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