Everyone has a dark side. But it’s their choice whether or not they cultivate it.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 turn 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.
The story is set in the early years of the 20th century, in a version of England that has magicians. They train at a special school and are regulated by a governing cabinet. Magicians must bind themselves to a material, such as paper, rubber, glass, plastic, or metal. There are some evil magicians, known as excisioners, who have figured out a way to use human blood. But when it comes time for ambitious young Ceony Twill to apprentice under a master magician, binding her power to paper is the furthest thing from her dreams. Folders, as magicians specializing in paper are known, are necessary for the balance of things.
Ceony is, to put it nicely, disappointed at first to be apprenticed to a folder named Emery Thane and bound forever to the power of paper. But then she learns Thane was the anonymous donor who made it possible for her to study magic when the scholarship first promised to her fell through. She starts to appreciate his kind gestures and his eccentric but catchy method of instruction. She starts to learn how magic can breathe life into origami creatures, how folded paper can be used to tell fortunes, and how a story read with enough charisma can conjure up life-like illusions.
When things start to look like they will finally workout an excisioner attacks Thane and takes his heart away with her. Now is up to Ceony to find a way to save him.
What I enjoyed the most about this novel was definitely the magic. Holmberg imagines magic in a different way to that which I have ever read – instead of people being inherently magical, they learn it, and choose an element to bond to. There’s an amazing imagination put into the way the paper can become magical, ranging from a ‘living’ paper skeleton to a paper heart that functions as a real heart. The inventions of the ability of paper magic are incredible, but not so incredible that you can’t believe them possible in this world.
I have to say though that the characters weren’t a really strong point for me. I found that they weren’t developed properly. We aren’t given enough time with Ceony and Thane before trouble begins for us to really get to know them, therefore I never built a connection with them.
In general it is a short and fast read that doesn’t force the reader to think too hard about how its world exists or how it functions. As I read, I didn’t find any gaping holes in Holmberg’s plot. Each book flew by and I was interested enough to read the next. I didn’t feel, at the end of the third and final book, that I needed to read more or that there should be additional books. I was pretty content. It is something quick that will keep you entertained.