Amateur Book Review: “The Paper Magician,” By Charlie N. Holmberg.

“I don’t know how many women can claim to have walked a man’s heart, but I’ve walked yours,”

― Charlie N. Holmberg, “The Paper Magician”

Potential spoiler alert!

Book Review:

“The Paper Magician,” by Charlie N. Holmberg is a quick and fun YA fiction novel. It is the first of a three book series that follows the fanciful story of the young magic apprentice, Ceony Twill, and her teacher, Magician Emery Thane. In the magical world of “The Paper Magician,” magicians bind themselves to a manmade material (paper, metal, rubber, glass, etc…) with which they will use in spellcasting. After graduating at the top of her class from Tagis Praff School for the Magically Inclined, Ceony is devastated to learn that instead of getting to choose her material like the other graduates, she is being forced to bond with paper due to a dwindling number of paper magicians. It is this that leads Ceony to her teacher, Magician Emery Thane, and the dangers of the dark arts (flesh magic). Ceony’s world is shaken when an evil Excisioner (practitioner of the dark arts) rips her teachers heart from his chest. It is up to Ceony to face the Excisioner and save her teacher.

Overall, the plot of this book was really enjoyable. I absolutely loved that during her mission to save her teacher, Ceony was forced to explore the four chambers of Mg. Thane’s heart. I thought that this was a really interesting concept. Each camber represented a different part of Mg. Thane; his happy memories, his hopes, his regretful memories, and his doubts. By the time Ceony had made it though the four chambers of Mg. Thane’s heart, she had fallen in love with him. What better way to get to know someone than to explore their actual heart?

Additionally, I loved the idea of having the magicians work with a single material. This part of the plot explored the concept of magic in a really unique way. Before reading this book, I never would have considered that simple things like reading a children’s book or folding paper could be magical. I also felt introducing the idea of magician’s who only casted with a single material added an element of individuality and surprise to the story. Instead of assuming that all of the magicians could do the same things, I found myself wondering about the unique spells and abilities that each material could yield.

Personally, I feel that the author could have done a better job with character development. Ceony was the main character, yet I never felt like I got to know her. It was clear that she didn’t want to bind with paper, she was afraid of water, and that she was a quick learner…but is that all there is to her as a character? Additionally, after only working with Mg. Thane for one month, Ceony was ready to set out on a dangerous quest to save his life. What was her motivation for doing this? At the end of the book, Ceony confesses that she is falling in love with her teacher, but that was only AFTER she had spent time traipsing around through his heart and memories. However, when she first sets out on her mission to save her teacher, Ceony hardly knows him at all. It seemed a bit unfathomable to me that an apprentice magician would risk their life for a teacher that they hardly knew against an experienced practitioner of flesh magic, but I suppose that’s what made the story worth reading. I hope to get to know Ceony better in the next two books. Most of this book explored Mg. Thane’s memories, hopes, doubts, and fears. Therefore, I feel that I got to know him a bit better than I did Ceony.

I may get some flack for this one, but the one thing that really threw me off about this book was the budding romance between 19 year old Ceony and 30 year old Mg. Thane. I understand that a 19 year old is legally and adult, and that a relationship between two people of this age difference was likely viewed as normal during the time period when this book takes place (Victorian era). However, I’m a 31 year old woman and I can’t even fathom having a romantic relationship with someone who is technically still a teenager. It just seems a bit skeevy to me. Though the relationship between Ceony and Mg. Thane is no more than a subtle flirtation in this book, I still feel that it is inappropriate. After all, he is her teacher and this book was written for young adults. Couldn’t the author have narrowed the age gap between them? I feel that this book would have been just as good if Ceony and Mg. Thane had simply become really good friends rather than alluding to a future romantic connection.

Though I plan to read the rest of this series, I can’t say that book one would have had me rushing out to buy book two if I didn’t already have it in my collection. However, I still think that this book is worth the read if you like magic themed YA fiction. It was quick, fun, and unique even if it lacked a bit in depth.

Rating: ⭐⭐1/2

Up Next: “The Glass Magician,” by Charlie N. Holmberg (book 2/3) 🦄

Have you ever read this book? What did you think about it? Do you have any book recommendations for me? I would love to hear from you in the comment section below. If you enjoyed this post, please shoot me a like, comment, or follow.

Love Always, AnxiouslyM

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