The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg – book review

"The Paper Magician" by Charlie N. Holmberg.
“The Paper Magician” by Charlie N. Holmberg.
One of my friends kept recommending The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg, so I decided to pick it up and see what I thought. After all, I’ve found many good books through friend recommendations. This is one of those.

Ceony Twill has just graduated at the top of her class (and early, too!) at the magic academy and has been assigned her apprenticeship. In this world, magicians choose a man-made material to which to bind themselves. From the time of that binding, their magic is forever linked to that material. In Ceony’s case, she is assigned to become a paper magician due to a shortage of them, and she is not at all happy about the assignment.

The book is set near the turn of the 20th Century in and around London, England, and Holmberg did a good job of imbuing The Paper Magician with that flavor without including too much which might confuse readers. This also means that the setting includes several societal “norms” of the time which may grate on some peoples’ nerves. I found them to fit right in with the setting, so they didn’t bother me.

One thing I found amusing—and which immediately let me know this was going to have a romantic sub-plot—was how Ceony immediately noticed the amazing green eyes of the Magician Emery Thane. The gorgeous color of his eyes was revisited as often as possible in the book. Though I don’t mind a little romance now and then (just ask my wife about me and shows/books/etc. with romance), I found the romance between Ceony and Emery to be a little bit forced. Not hugely so, but it was there enough for me to notice it.

I really liked the magic system in The Paper Magician. I found it unique and interesting, and quite unlike almost anything else I have seen in other fantasy stories. I found myself comparing it to the similarly-unique magic systems of Brandon Sanderson, one of my favorite authors. I then learned that Holmberg had been a student of Sanderson, so it all makes sense. Sanderson is the master of unique magic systems, and Holmberg certainly took that lesson to heart in creating the one used in this book.

The story seemed a little too rushed in parts. I think it could have used another chapter or two to smooth out the plot and go into more detail on a few points which seemed glossed over. There were other things I thought were explained in too much detail, making those scenes drag slightly. Even with that, The Paper Magician still kept me interested and turning pages till the end.

Holmberg does a great job with characterization for Ceony and Emery. By the end of the book, I felt like I had a couple new friends. This, and the unique magic system, is what really made me enjoy the book. If you haven’t read The Paper Magician, I recommend finding a copy and doing so. I encourage you to buy a copy if you can. Holmberg is a good writer to watch!

Release Date: September 1, 2014 (USA)
ISBNs: 1477823832 (9781477823835)
Publisher: 47North
Language: English

MySF Rating: Four point zero stars
Family Friendliness: 95%

Content:

Alcohol/Drugs: 0
Language: 1 (very mild, very infrequent)
Sexuality: 0 (unless you count amazing green eyes)
Violence: 2 (some mildly-graphic scenes, magical battles, death)

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