Title: The Paper Magician (The Paper Magician Trilogy #1)
Author: Charlie N. Holmberg
Genres: Fantasy | Historical Fiction | Magical Realism | Paranormal | Romance
Length: 224 pages | 3143 locations
After graduating from Tagis Praff School for the Magical Inclined, Ceony gets to specialize in the element of her choice. She really wants to become a smelter, but is forced to take up Folding.
Paper strikes her as rather useless, and she does not appreciate being pushed to bond with an element for life against her choice.
However, Ceony’s teacher turns out to be a quite enigmatic person and she will come to appreciate being his apprentice, to the point where she will risk her life on a daunting adventure to save his.
When I started reading The Paper Magician, I did not take to the main character. Sadly, that feeling stayed with me throughout the book.
She is 19 years old, but came across more as your typical rebellious 15 year-old.
At the time we meet her, she has finished her training at Tagis Praff School for the Magical Inclined. When that happens, especially if you graduate top of the class as Ceony did, you can supposedly choose what to specialize on.
Ceony really wanted to be a smelter. Really, really wanted it, I get it. But she is forced to take up a Folding apprenticeship. And, once you are bonded with an element, you cannot ever change it.
But considering we are told that she almost did not engross in the magic school at all because she could not afford it – actually had her eye set on a cooking school as the alternative – I just could not relate to her attitude. It’s like she was throwing a tantrum in every little thing she did or thought, starting by the frumpy way she got dressed and did her hair before meeting Magician Thane, or comments like she wished her heart would just stop.
Also, when she first gets to the Magician’s house, she immediately labels him mad. While I was baffled and utterly enchanted by what the things she was seeing, she thought it was all the product of a mad man. Example: A small wind chime hung in the corner (…) She surmised that Mg. Thane liked the look of it, but not the sound. Mad, indeed. Well then I guess I am mad as well.
Then Magician Thane started teaching Ceony about paper magic and I was again enchanted. The descriptions were lovely, I just had to trudge through the attitude. The fact that she came across as so perfect in so many aspects did not help me feel related to her, though. She had a perfect memory, learned things on her first try, was a brilliant cook, always motivated, and seemed to know what to do at all times. And she blushed a lot. How coy.
Regardless, I tried to get past that and actually came to appreciate the banter between Ceony and Magician Thane, particularly at the dinner table. Boy oh boy, was the guy patient. I liked him.
But after the plot twist around the first third of the book, the one the blurb sadly openly mentions, it all went downhill for me. I could not get engaged in the story because I found it got repetitive (Ceony’s adventure lasts around 50% of the book), and all the time I kept thinking how the heck is she going to get out of there?? – even if she does get to the end .
So I was very sad about the turn of events. I had expected magic and instead got a character study of Emery and a repetitive plot line.
I could not even understand how the bad guy turned out to be that bad! Now that would have been interesting. What makes someone so lovely become so hideous?
There were quite a few moments where I actually remember rolling my eyes at what I was reading (I would still like to know how on earth a person manages to force a flush down into her chest, where the magician wouldn’t see it).
The chapters were too long and the pace felt off to me. She is being chased by a bad guy who, even though cast the spell herself, cannot ever seem to catch up to our hero – who by the way, despite being chased by an evil person, still has time to fold little birds and fish and wallow in visions.
Even though the action takes place in the early 1900s, the language itself felt much too modern.
The world building was beyond lacking. I could not even really understand the role of magic in such a world. For instance, something which is outright obvious in other books of the sort: how known is magic? It doesn’t seem to be a hidden thing as in The Paper Magician‘s counterparts, especially since they get the police to help chase the bad guys, but we are also not really shown its role in society. I remember a fountain being enchanted to make pretty water effects but that’s it.
The ending left a bad taste in my mouth too. Yes, the fighting sequences were fairly believable, I suppose, but Ceony could never have defeated such a powerful mage. It just does not make any sense.
And the love thing with her teacher… I had actually thought I was going get through a book without romance. And it’s not even about the 12 year difference or the fact that he is a teacher – though they do matter, in my opinion. I suppose I can understand her starting to develop feelings for him after so thoroughly examining his heart and seeing the good and the bad (though not outright love), but him falling back in love with her, to the point where his future shows the two of them together with two sons? Just because she saved him? He doesn’t even know her! Not to mention that I just can’t see them together. I see Emery with a much more mature person.
In the end, there was one thing I truly appreciated: there were little details here and there that made the whole thing feel real, small references which made all the difference. I especially liked that Magician Thane seemed to have a bit of an OCD issue.
The fact that, despite the protagonist’s annoying perfection, everything did not go according to plan also helped, even though this was countered by the fact she always seemed to know what to do and what the visions meant.
I thoroughly enjoyed the sequences about Folding and anything related to magic. But it just was not enough to pull the whole weight of the book and, in the end, I just did not relate to The Paper Magician much. It could have been such a whimsical story, if the world had been further developed, but it just fell short for me.
I am going to read the sequel and truly hope there will be there less romance and more magic.
Disclaimer: I would like to thank the publisher and Netgalley for providing me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
Read from Jun 12 to Jun 13, 2015