Sunday, June 14, 2015

The Paper Magician (Charlie N. Holmberg)

The Paper Magician
(The Paper Magician series, Book 1)
Charlie N. Holmberg
Fiction, YA Fantasy
***+ (Okay/Good)

DESCRIPTION: Ceony Twill, top graduate of London's prestigious Tagis Praff School for the Magically Inclined, dreamed of becoming a Smelter - a magician bonded to worked metals and jewelry. Unfortunately, a shortage of Folders forces her to take apprenticeship with a paper magician... and, once bonded to one material, a mage can never work magic in another area. Paper's the weakest of man-made materials, good for little more than simple illusions and trinkets. Ceony's invested too much time to turn her back on magic completely, but it looks like her future won't be nearly so exciting or glamorous as she'd hoped.
Working with Mg. Emery Thane soon changes her views on Folding, as the eccentric man's masterful creations confound and amaze Ceony. It doesn't hurt that he's far more handsome than she anticipated, with green eyes that sparkle with hidden humor. But Emery hides many secrets from his apprentice, disappearing for days at a time and receiving odd telegrams at odd hours. When an Excisioner - a practitioner of forbidden blood magic - strikes and tears Emery's beating heart from his chest, barely-trained Ceony must push her courage beyond the breaking point to save her master's life.

REVIEW: Set in an alternate Edwardianesque London, The Paper Magician establishes an interesting magical concept, but doesn't quite seem to know what to do with it. Instead of exploring paper magic (or glass magic, or the new-minted plastic arts, an offshoot of rubber magic), it soon becomes the story of Emery Thane's soul-scarring past and Ceony's growing (yet unrequited) feelings for her master, with more than a few shades of Howl's Moving Castle as she finds herself lost in Thane's memories via his disembodied heart while fighting the woman who tore it out (both figuratively and literally.) This makes it less an original tale and more an inevitable replay of too many puppy-love young adult novels. Ceony's trip through Thane's heart-memories seems a little long, crafted more to let her witness her master's wounded soul than to further the here-and-now plot of her escaping an Excisioner's clutches. Ceony makes a reasonably strong-willed protagonist, and I liked what I saw of the world's magic system, but for some reason I found this book subtly unsatisfying. Still, I'd consider reading the second book if I found it cheap enough (or free, through the library.)

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