Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Review: The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg

The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg
Series: The Paper Magician book 1
Genre: Fantasy/AU Historical
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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.

For the last couple books I've reviewed, I've been taking notes while reading the book. Just things that come to me, or quotes that I want to use - anything that I can expound upon in my review. I couldn't with this book. Oh, I thought I would, but when I read the first half in less than four hours, including breaks to do minor things like eat and take care of the pets (and watch a bit of The Originals) I didn't feel like focusing on the book without getting to actually read it.

I was hooked right from the beginning. Right from:

For the past five years, Ceony had wanted to be a smelter.

That sentence brought up all kinds of questions. Going into this book only knowing what the back cover says, I had little idea what this story would even be like.

If there is one word I'd use to describe this book it would be 'magical'. Let me just say that, while there isn't anything wrong with the cover, it does nothing to indicate the imagination and whimsy that this book contains. No, basing it on that cover, I thought this was going to be a solid story, very staid and 'feet-on-the-ground'. A bit mannerpunk - strong on the manner and light on the punk.

Instead, the story is a whimsy, sometimes dark story about magicians and stolen hearts and a girl that just had her heart broken - but not by romance.

Set in the early 1900's in a London that is ever-so-slightly different from the historical one, we have 'magicians' - people who bond to a specific man-made material and can do magic through that medium. Honestly, some of the magic that Ceony learns is very awesome - also very visual. (I want this book made into a movie.)

There are many different types of magicians - a number that grows occasionally. However, our Ceony, wanting to be a 'Smelter' (able to affect metals) but instead she gets shunted off to the primary dying magic. 'Folding.' Paper magic. It's not a powerful magic - not like most of the others - nor is it particularly useful. It to her, it seems to be only good for parlor tricks.

I like Ceony. She's not the kind of girl that I'll be fawning over, but she is simply, quietly likable. She is upset that her dreams have fallen through, but it doesn't take her long to decide that her situation actually isn't so bad. She is smart, with something of a photographic or eidetic memory. However, she also has a fear. A fear that she must face several times throughout the story, and I must say that I think her fear was handled very realistically.

Her master is a bit…cuckoo. Ceony wonders if he's mad and - well… I like him. Emery Thane is kind and extremely quirky. He obviously views the world in an odd manner and has strong shades of an absent minded scientist. A major portion of this book actually takes place inside his heart. Ceony gets an up close look at his hopes and fears and memories - both good and bad.

There were few other characters of any real importance, but the gorgeous way Ceony and Emery were developed more than made up for a light cast. There was information about both their pasts and, by the end of the book, I really felt like I knew them. (There were a few, non-talking characters that were so entertaining as well.)

I love the 'Folding' magic. (Paper magic.) Origami is an obvious influence and I love all the different things that can be done with it. It's one of the weaker magic's, (at least, for physical strength) so it's great fun to see how it can be used in battles.

I would like to make special mention of romance in this story. You see, Ceony develops a crush (becoming love) on her master. It's easy to see how respect and admiration can turn to love and all the time Ceony spends with Emery certainly helps. However, this may be a bit of a deal breaker for some people. Ceony is nineteen. Emery is almost thirty-one. While twelve years difference in age doesn't bother me, I know it will some people, so be forewarned.