“Perhaps the man wasn’t so mad after all. Or maybe it’s a madness [she] can learn to appreciate.” — Charlie N. Holmberg, The Paper Magician
“The Paper Magician” Review
This post may contain spoilers.
I picked up The Paper Magician because it was on some list that I found somewhere on the Internet that suggested other books that people might like if they enjoyed Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus. Charlie Holmberg has created a unique set of magical rules, wherein a magician is bond to only one manmade material, such as rubber, glass, or paper.
The novel opens up with the main character, Ceony Twill, arriving at the house of the magician she will apprentice under, Emery Thane. Thane is one of the few Paper Magicians in the area, as paper isn’t the most popular materials to spell. Ceony herself would have preferred to be bond to metal, to enchant cannons and bullets instead of scrapbook material.
Yet, as Ceony is apprenticed under the eccentric Magician Thane, she learns the intricate art and wonder of spelling paper as well as Excisioner, the forbidden magic of spelling human flesh. When an Excisioner storms into Thane’s and Ceony’s home to snatch Thane’s heart, it is Ceony who embarks on a dangerous quest to rescue the magician’s heart. She not only learns but experiences her teacher’s hopes, dreams, and darkest memories and doubts that created Thane’s spirit during this quest, all while trying to avoid becoming the Excisioner’s next victim.
I definitely enjoyed the unique magic system in this book. Being a reader and a writer, I appreciated the new magic that paper can bring the world. The descriptions of the special Folds that the papers need in order for the spells — animated, defense, attacking — to be completed were wonderful, as were the general setting descriptions. The narration succeeded in bringing the reader along with Ceony on her journey, and it kept me turning page after page.
That, and Thane had a skeleton butler named Jonto made out of paper and he had even created a paper dog for Ceony. Those little touches were adorable.
I wasn’t a fan of the main antagonist of the book, however. The Excisioner twist was definitely interesting in itself, but the battle between her and Ceony seemed to be more like two women fighting over the love of a man. The reason behind the fight reminded me of a couple of catty high schoolers, even if the settings and the fight itself was entertaining. The motive for the fight did not keep me invested.
Nevertheless, I did enjoy the book enough to consider getting the sequel the next time I’m willing to lighten my wallet at the bookstore. If you enjoy magic, historical pieces, and eccentric characters, you may enjoy Holmberg’s The Paper Magician.
“The Paper Magician” gets a 4 out of 5 stars.