James Nicoll Reviews

Home > Reviews > Post

A Book Or Maybe Two

Magus of the Library, volume 2

By Mitsu Izumi 

27 Dec, 2023


1 comment

Support me with a Patreon monthly subscription!

2018’s Magus of the Library, Volume 2 is the second tankōbon in Mitsu Izumi’s secondary-universe fantasy manga series, Toshokan no Daimajutsushi in the original Japanese. Magus has been serialized in Good! Afternoon since November 2017. The English translation appeared in 2019.

Now a teen, Theo Fumis sets off to the big city, where he hopes to pass the Great Library’s entry exams. This is the first step towards becoming a Kafna, a librarian.

Adventures await on the road.

The Great Magus confounded the Emissary of Wormwood’s genocidal attempt to conquer the Altatonan continent long ago. The Great Library founded by the Magus works diligently to mitigate the interracial prejudice that drove the Emissary and his followers. Despite this, the one common element between the continent’s ethnicities is that they all distrust one another. Theo, being the product of two different groups, is distrusted by all.

As is his custom, Theo greets all hostility with relentless good cheer. On his way to the great city, he helps confound book thieves, discusses the great question of whether libraries are the enemies of book sellers, and facilitates the rescue of an endearing animal from its cruel owner. He also accumulates the usual diverse assortment of new friends that heroes like Theo usually acquire on their path to greatness.

While the reader knows that Theo is destined for greatness, Theo does not. He is, however, well aware of the great challenges ahead. Theo was mentored by a grateful town librarian (saved by Theo in volume one) and by mason Ganan. However, as the mason helpfully pointed out to Theo, Theo has many disadvantages:

  • Ninety percent of Kafnas are women. Theo is a boy.
  • Most candidates are from the big city. Theo is from a small town.
  • Most candidates are wealthy. Theo is poor.
  • Most candidates get rigorous schooling from elite teachers. Theo was taught in a mediocre public school (part time) and tutored by an ungifted librarian.
  • Most candidates wield magic. Theo has no magic1.
  • Theo is, as previously stated, mixed-race in a society rife with racial prejudice.

Ganan does his best to help Theo accomplish the nearly-impossible. Ganan is no scholar but he can and does provide Theo with an asset that Theo’s cosseted rivals are unlikely to possess, something that will be of tremendous use during the entry exam: the endurance of an ox.


Much of the art in this is functional but once in a while the artist indulges a taste for scenery porn. Unsurprisingly, vast libraries often feature.

While this is a magic-rich setting, the Emissary’s notorious Black Text wasn’t a magically cursed tome. It was simply the local equivalent of Mein Kampf, a purely mundane book extoling the virtues of genocide. It found an audience not due to arcane spells, but because many of the people of Altatonan continent are bigoted dicks. The Great Library has worked for lifetimes to mitigate this tendency. The extent to which they succeeded is hard to judge, but at least people limit themselves to muttered insults rather than setting up death camps.

Part of the plot revolves around the tendency of rich people to latch onto items as status symbols without having any particular interest in those items’ functionality. There is a thriving trade in stolen books because rich people will buy them. Rich people do not actually read their treasures.

It might seem odd that entry into the ranks of the Kafna begins with a test of the applicant’s ability to stay awake for a long time. This could simply be one of those peculiar traditions that long-time institutions accrue. It’s possible that there’s a purpose. Kafnas walk from town to town as part of their duties, so endurance would be useful2.

The series as a whole is the author’s love letter to the power of books, for good or ill. This particular volume is rich in events but perhaps a bit light on plot. It’s clear (because the events are drawn from a book written after Theo became famous) that Theo is destined for greatness, which undermines the drama of various impediments. Nevertheless, I plan to read the rest of the series.

Magus of the Library, Volume 2 is available here (Amazon US), here (Amazon Canada), here (Amazon UK), here (Apple Books), here (Barnes & Noble), and here (Chapters-Indigo).

1: Theo can shape water by will alone, but apparently that does not count as magical talent.

2: Tests like endurance discriminate against any disabled would-be Kafnas. Given what we see of this society, it doesn’t seem likely to care about such problems.