Warning: This review contains spoilers for “The Paper Magician” by Charlie N. Holmberg. If you have not read this book, please do not read the review. If you do not mind spoilers or have already read the book, feel free to read it.
For this review, I’m reviewing “The Paper Magician” by Charlie N. Holmberg. Here’s a summary so we all know what it is about:
“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.”
I loved the characters of both Ceony and Emery. Ceony was stubborn in the beginning over using Folding as the type of magic she was bonded to, but she soon realized that even though Folding may be the weakest of magics, it’s not necessarily useless. I like how she slowly grew to realize how even the seemingly weakest thing can actually be very useful and strong, and she uses this often in the latter half of the book.
Emery was both likable and unlikable. He was formal, which made sense due to him being Ceony’s teacher in the art of Folding, but at the same time there was this likableness to him. He was considerate of Ceony’s homesickness by creating the paper dog for her, which I thought was sweet. The latter half of the novel, since Ceony was stuck in Emery’s heart, revealed Emery’s backstory. I really enjoyed reading how exactly he got in such bad view with Lira, the antagonist, and we also see that even someone as skilled at Folding as Emery isn’t perfect. He was the proud school bully, the lovesick fool. But he also knew when he made a mistake and what he tried to do to fix them when it happened. Looking at Emery in the past, and the Emery of now, there is a really big comparison. The Emery of now has learned from his grave mistakes of the past (especially with Lira) and so he’s tried to fix them, and I’m glad to view such growth in him.
One of the parts I liked best about the book were the beginning chapters, where they went into detail about Emery training Ceony in Folding (which is basically all magic that involves paper). Usually I feel like when I read novels that involve the protagonist going somewhere to train their abilities, they tend to skip over the actual “training” parts and skip to the parts regarding after the training. But “The Paper Magician” took its time to give detail on Ceony’s training regarding Folding, which I liked. I thought it gave me the opportunity to not just understand how exactly Folding works in the novel, but also gave me the opportunity to get to understand both Ceony and Emery’s personalities and behaviours.
If there was one thing that I did not like about the book, it was the romance. Not the former romance between Emery and Lira, but the romance between Ceony and Emery. Up until late in the book, I felt like there was no sign of a building romance at all. A strong master-to-student relationship between Emery and Ceony, yes, but not a romantic relationship. I felt that the romance put between Ceony and Emery was forced, and that was the part I believe was the letdown of the entire book for me. I didn’t feel like romance was necessary between these two characters, simply because I didn’t sense anything romantic from them up until the moment late in the book where Ceony yells at Lira that she wants to save Emery is because she loves him. I felt that saving someone because one happened to love them, especially if such an element was forced like in this novel, was unnecessary and that was the definite letdown of this book.
Overall, I’m going to give this a rating of four out of five stars, due to the forced romance involved. Otherwise, I found this to be a rather enjoyable novel overall, and I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who is interested in books with a bit of magic and an intricate example of how the mechanics of said magic work.