Book Review: The Paper Magician Series by Charlie N. Holmberg

I read this entire series in three days time so I’m going to talk about all three books here in one big review. The fact that I read them all so quickly will probably give you a head’s up on how much I enjoyed reading these. Spoiler: I liked them a lot.

The Paper Magician — from Goodreads:

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, tpm-coverCeony 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.

The Glass Magician — From Goodreads:

tgm-cover

When a magician with a penchant for revenge believes that Ceony possesses a secret, he vows to discover it…even if it tears apart the very fabric of their magical world. After a series of attacks target Ceony and catch those she holds most dear in the crossfire, Ceony knows she must find the true limits of her powers…and keep her knowledge from falling into wayward hands.

The Master Magician — From Goodreads: 

While all seems set for Ceony to complete her apprenticeship and pass her upcoming final tmm-covermagician’s exam, life quickly becomes complicated. To avoid favoritism, Emery sends her to another paper magician for testing, a Folder who despises Emery and cares even less for his apprentice. To make matters worse, a murderous criminal from Ceony’s past escapes imprisonment. Now she must track the power-hungry convict across England before he can take his revenge. With her life and loved ones hanging in the balance, Ceony must face a criminal who wields the one magic that she does not, and it may prove more powerful than all her skills combined. 

I really enjoyed The Paper Magician series! They’re essentially historical fantasy romance which is sort of my jam. If I didn’t like the romance in or or connect with the characters I wouldn’t have liked the series so much, but because I did I can look past some of the issues (such as the odd pacing in the first book.)

In book one we meet Ceony and her new instructor, Magician Thane. The two main characters have a lot of depth to them, more than any of the others in the books. Ceony is finishing up her magical schooling, the last of which involves an apprenticeship that will last two to six years until she passes her final exam and can graduate to a full-fledged magician. Emery Thane, Paper Magician, has a reputation as a bit of an eccentric. (Although, other than his carefully tidied clutter and a penchant for keeping to himself, he doesn’t really feel all that eccentric so I’m not sure where this reputation has come from…). I do like Thane a lot as a love interest though. He’s not a typical hero. He’s fairly quiet, he likes books and learning, and he’s decidedly not an alpha male type. Also, he’s a bit of an introvert. Ceony on the other hand is a classic extrovert, which makes for interesting dynamics between the two of them. Ceony did get on my nerves at some points with decisions she made, but I also understood her wanting to take charge of things, especially when everything felt so beyond any semblance of control.

The books were short (less than 300 pages each) and I fairly flew through them. The pacing was a little bit strange in the first one as there is a very long sequence which then results in the climax of the novel. I actually really enjoyed that part, even if it slowed things down–we, along with Ceony, got to learn more about Magician Thane. I really loved the entire concept of that part of the book; literally walking through someone’s heart, experiencing their past and hopes and fears…that was lovely. I do think the pacing was much better in the last two books, however, as they have a more typical structure to them.

I thought the magic system was an interesting concept, but those looking for hard rules will probably be unhappy here. Not to say there aren’t rules, because there are, but it’s just a general sort of ‘magically bond to a material and then work your magic through that’. I don’t need hard rules to magic, so this wasn’t a deal breaker for me but I did find myself asking questions such as ‘Ok, but what exactly is the magic? Can anyone learn magic or only certain people? If so, why go to school for it? Why aren’t there magicians just popping up everywhere?’ I guess some of this is a little bit touched on by the villains in the book.

Speaking of the villains, they are fairly mustache twirly–except maybe for the second one which had just a hint of depth to him. For the most part I didn’t mind that because I saw them only as hurdles for our protagonists to overcome in order to be together. Their motivations felt almost irrelevant to me because they were just a means to an end. If you insist on your villains having a good backstory or even clear motivations you may be a bit disappointed here, especially by the last book. Also, the villains felt a bit like in a video game when you fight one boss and then get to the next level (book) and have to fight another bigger boss until you get to the final level (book) and have to fight the biggest boss of all.

Still, I really had fun reading these books! They’re quick reads and even though there is a quite a bit of fluff I hesitate to say they’re light reads as there’s also some really dark parts. This was a fun ride, and I fell in love with the characters and was rooting for them to be together. Each of these was 4/5 stars for me.

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