Book Review: The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg
The Paper Magician is a story about a young woman named Ceony Twill who just graduated at the top of her class from Tagis Praff School for the Magically Inclined. It should have been a time of celebration, a time when Ceony gets to choose her branch of magic to study and practice for the rest of her life, but Ceony is met with bitter disappointment when she is enlisted as a Paper magician instead. Once she’s sworn to Paper she can never go back, and she struggles with resentment as she begins her tutelage under Magician Emery Thane. Emery introduces Ceony to the beauty of Paper magic, bringing origami animals to life, making stories come alive with ghostly images, and even telling the future. Just as Ceony is warming up to paper magic, dark magic users, flesh mages, attack her mentor’s home and rip out his heart. Ceony’s able to keep him alive with her newly-learned skills, but she must embark on a terrifying journey that leads her into the very chambers of her mentor’s heart.
This book is beautifully written, and this world of magic is incredibly unique and interesting. There is a branch of magic for every man-made material, anything from plastic to metal to paper, and the creativity in the design of these different branches and what they’re capable of was really fun to explore. As Ceony interacts with other mages of other branches and I learned more about how their world worked, I had a lot of fun thinking about the different uses for different spells and trying to come up with ways I would use each kind of magic.
I also really enjoyed the “brains over brawn” aspect of this story. Ceony is an apprentice, and a Paper apprentice at that. She’s going up against skilled, dangerous flesh magicians who can kill with a touch. All of the odds are stacked against her, but being a Paper magician meant she had to learn to be flexible and develop an unending capacity for ingenuity. Her ability to adapt to every situation and use that ingenuity is how she stands against this threat where no one else could, and I enjoyed how that was portrayed.
One thing that I’m not too fond of about this book is the way a romance is kind of squeaked in there. Ceony starts to fall for her mysterious mentor, and I found that it cheapened the story somewhat. There aren’t many meaningful interactions between Ceony and Emery throughout the book, so her falling for him felt like it was a teenage crush that made her choice to risk her life seem childish and silly. Her crush definitely isn’t a major part of the story, however, so the few times it comes up are easily forgiven.
All in all, this is a lovely book with a unique and interesting story that’s definitely worth the read.