Title: The Paper Magician
Author: Charlie N. Holmberg
Release Date: September 1, 2014
The Paper Magician is a young adult fantasy novel that focuses on a young girl, Ceony Twill, who has just graduated from Tagis Praff School for the Magically Inclined. Upon graduation, Ceony is to begin an apprenticeship and bond with a man made element that will be the source of her magic. Ceony is assigned to be a Folder, a magician whose magical element is paper, and is assigned to work under the very eccentric Magician Emery Thane. Ceony begins to learn paper magic under Magician Thane’s odd teachings, but soon Magician Thane disappears. When he returns, an Excisioner, a magician who works with flesh magic, steals his heart from his chest. Ceony must risk her life to retrieve Magician Thane’s heart and save his life.
Unfortunately, I feel like world building is one thing that The Paper Magician is really missing. Holmberg doesn’t do much to bring us into the world and I left myself wanting to know more. Are people born magical or is magic learned? I couldn’t quite tell because Ceony Twill had wanted to be a caterer before beginning magic school. I don’t view catering as a magical profession. Are there non-magical people in the world? If so, do the non-magical people know about the magical people? Ceony mentions that there was a place in Parliament Square, in view of all people, that she would have apprenticed at if she would have been bonded to metal. It doesn’t seem like the magic is being kept a secret. The only time I felt like the setting was really well described was in Magician Thane’s house. Holmberg does an incredible job of describing almost every detail of the house and that is the only time I could really picture myself in the story. It was almost like living in a house and not knowing what is just outside your front door. I couldn’t envision the world outside of Magician Thane’s house because I don’t think the outside world was really introduced or explained.
I feel like back story is another thing that was a bit frazzled. Ceony Twill mentions how she would have been a chef and caterer if she didn’t become a magician. Since we don’t know much about the magical world, this doesn’t seem to make sense. Holmberg then alludes to a troubled home life, but this never really becomes relevant in the story. Ceony reveals a dark secret to Thane, but it doesn’t seem like this detail was really necessary and doesn’t seem to affect her much throughout the novel. It’s just convenient at one part of the story. Ceony’s family is vaguely touched on but not really expanded upon. I just felt like I didn’t really know Ceony as a character, and there was a lot left to be desired in terms of who she really was. I couldn’t connect with her at all.
Lastly, I didn’t really like the journey through Magician Thane’s heart. In order for Ceony to save him, she must journey through the four chambers of Magician Thane’s heart. Although I did enjoy learning more about Magician Thane, I thought the logistics of the heart scenes were a bit off. There were some parts where Ceony could communicate with Thane and other times where she couldn’t. It is never really explained why she could or couldn’t communicate with Thane. I really didn’t like how Ceony began to view Thane as more of a love interest by the end of the novel. I also wasn’t massively impressed with the portrayal of the villain, the Excisioner who removes Thane’s heart. We learn that she is Magician Thane’s ex-wife, but there’s not really any motivation to her actions. I thought that she was a rather flat villain and would have liked a few more complexities.
Overall, I really enjoyed the first half of The Paper Magician. It was a quick and easy read and I thought that the premise of the story was really promising. I really enjoyed Fennel, the paper dog, and I loved the quirky side of Magician Thane. However, I didn’t really enjoy the second half of the book as much as I wanted to. I feel like we learned more about Magician Thane than Ceony, who was supposed to be the main character. A few actions didn’t seem to make sense and I really did miss the world building in this story. Holmberg has announced a sequel to this novel and I hope it clears up the questions that this book left unanswered.
If you have read The Paper Magician, I would love to hear your thoughts as well. To view The Paper Magician on Amazon, please click here.