Title: The Paper Magician
Author: Charlie N. Holmberg
Series: The Paper Magician Trilogy, #1
Format: eBook, kindly provided by
publisher via Netgalley
My rating: 1.5 / 5
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.
-- As seen on Goodreads
I wanted to love The Paper Magician. To make it even more disappointing, all the signs were good! I really liked the premise, and it reminded me a little of The Night Circus, and I loved the idea of paper magic. It started off really well: Ceony Twill has recently completed her magical schooling, and her heart was set on becoming a Smelter. She graduated at the top of her class, but was forced to accept an apprenticeship with the neglected and unpopular paper magic line, and become a Folder. I liked Ceony’s attitude initially: she did have a few moans and once it was out of her system, she got on with things.
My favourite part of the book was the origami, and I loved seeing Ceony learn how to fold paper, imbue it with magic, and animate it. But, being honest, I didn’t fully connect with any of the characters. While I liked Ceony, she seemed a bit distant and unreachable – I don’t feel like I got a proper idea of who she is. I feel the same toward Emery: I loved seeing him make a paper dog for Ceony when she was homesick for her own dog, and I thought I would begin to like the characters from then on… but it didn’t happen, unfortunately.
It feels like the book split in two: the first half I enjoyed, but once we ended up inside a heart… you lost me. I was expecting so much more, and I couldn’t suspend disbelief enough as I didn’t have anything to root for. From that point, everything began unraveling, and I couldn’t get back to enjoying and connecting with the story.
Unfortunately, the pacing didn’t work for me. The plot tended to plod along, and I felt it had to be pushed forward at times. What was strange, the book felt a lot longer than it is. During the last chunk it was an effort to get through the pages, and at times it became quite laborious. I thought the writing itself was good, but I felt the details were a bit haphazard. I felt too much detail was wasted on unnecessary things, and not enough detail was provided for very important plot points. I would have loved to know more about the setting, and at what time the book is really set within history. It feels like it was set in the modern world, but with a few steampunk elements thrown in. It’s one thing to be told things, but it’s another to actually believe them and I feel this is my biggest disappointment with the book. I kept getting conflicting imagery, and I stopped caring. Overall, I loved the concept, but the plot went in a different direction than I was expecting. The beginning was really good, but the more I read, the more disconnected I became. I’m so disappointed that I didn’t like it, I was almost positive I would!