Book Review :
The Paper Magician
By Charlie N. Holmberg
Ceony Twill arrives at the cottage of Magician Emery Thane with a broken heart. Having graduated at the top of her class from the Tagis Praff School for the Magically Inclined, Ceony is assigned an apprenticeship in paper magic despite her dreams of bespelling metal. And once she’s bonded to paper, that will be her only magic… forever.
Yet the spells Ceony learns under the strange yet kind Thane turns out to be more marvelous than she could have ever imagined — animating paper creatures, bringing stories to life via ghostly images, even reading fortunes. But as she discovers these wonders, Ceony also learns of the extraordinary dangers of forbidden magic.
An Excisioner — a practitioner of dark, flesh magic — invades the cottage and rips Thane’s heart from his chest. To save her teacher’s life, Ceony must face the evil magician and embark on an unbelievable adventure that will take her into the chambers of Thane’s still-beating heart—and reveal the very soul of the man. (Courtesy of goodreads.com)
Adult Point of View
I’d heard of The Paper Magician, but it’s been on one of my interminable stacks to read at an unspecified future date. Next, I discovered Charlie N. Holberg at a writing conference and attended one of her classes. Then I found out, she’s friends with Jeff Wheeler (another one of my favorite authors) which only made sense because they both write amazing books. After all of that, I bumped her book to the top of my list and am so glad I did.
Now that you know I have a slight predisposition to like Holmberg’s story, I will continue with the review. I loved the setting, the magic system, and the characters. That about covers the entire book, right?
The world building feels like a genuine place and time, rather than an exaggerated parody of Victorian England. The role women play isn’t fully explored, but I felt like they are not discriminated against – however, the poor still are undermined in their society. This is aptly shown through a boorish, rich man’s behavior to those he feels to be his inferiors. In this world, man-made materials may be manipulated by the magical arts magicians employ. But all is not well in this land, because some have discovered a dark magical art and with it, they can rip out the very heart of a man.
Ceony desperately wanted to be under the tutelage of a different discipline of magic, but alas, she got stuck with paper. Boring paper. What can a folded piece of paper do? She was assigned to this discipline because there was an extreme shortage of paper magicians.
She soon discovers, that she’s been an ungrateful twit, gets over herself and sets to work. Using the same wits she used to finish school, she thrives learning new magic and is amazed when she can bring a story to life. As wonderful foreshadowing and a means to be used later, this skill will be needed for her to escape from being murdered.
Mg. Thane, a paper magician, appears to be erratic, cryptic and kind. Why would anyone want to kill a man like that? As Ceony tries to save him, she comes to know his heart. Both the good and bad, successes and failures – even his dreams. In the process, she sees herself in a new way.
This was a thoroughly satisfying read and terribly creative. I love a good magic system, that makes sense. I highly recommend this book.
4-4.5 out of 5 stars
If you liked The Paper Magician, I’d recommend Brandon Sanderson’s The Alloy of Law along with the rest of that series. I also recommend Incarceron by Katherine Fisher, Jeff Wheeler’s Kingfountain series, and Patrick W. Carr’s series, A Cast of Stone.