Author: Charlie N. Holmberg
Publisher: 47 North
Publishing Date: September 1, 2014
Set in the early 1900’s we meet Ceony Twill. Ceony is a 19-year-old girl who has just graduated from Tagis Praff School for the Magically Inclined at the top of her class, and in just a year’s time. Now she is ready to move onto the apprenticeship phase of her learning. When Ceony is informed that she’s being forced into Paper Magic, rather than Metal Magic, as she’s long desired to do, she is heartbroken.
In order to begin her apprenticeship, she is carted off to Magician Emery Thane’s home, where she will live and study under him in the art of Paper Magic. Having spent her entire life believing that Paper Magic is the weakest of all magic, this is the hardest fate she’s ever had to accept. Devastate that this is to be the craft she bonds to, she holds a sharp tongue and is not interested in giving her best efforts to learn. Suddenly, when tragedy strikes Ceony is forced to use what little knowledge she has to pursue an Excisioner – a magician of blood and dark arts. In this novel, we will journey with her to save the life of a friend, discover the dangers of the world of magic, and just how powerful something so “insignificant” as Paper can be!
First Impressions/Pros & Cons:
The first thing that drew me to this book was definitely the cover. I honestly never even read the synopsis until the night I decided to start reading it. Between a stunning cover and a unique title, I was immediately drawn in.
Usually I would start off by talking about all the good things about this book, however, considering how I just mentioned the synopsis, let me suggest to you this: DO NOT READ THE SYNOPSIS. There are TWO spoilers within the synopsis alone, that though they do not monumentally change the experience you have with the book, they did radically alter my ability to enjoy this novel considering I was horribly angry for the first half of the book as I was awaiting said spoilers to come up in the plot. This is something that was extremely irritating for me because I personally believe I would have enjoyed this novel, even more, had I not known about the two spoilers that are mentioned in the synopsis on the back of the book.
Moving on from that, though, there were definitely things about this novel that I enjoyed and felt set it apart. I’d say the first 50%-75% of this novel is paced as if you are strolling through a park. It’s pleasant, and you find it refreshing even. The only problem with a novel paced like this, though, is that periodically the sun would beat down on me and I’d get the itch to find shade. What I mean by that is this: the “strolling” pace is refreshing, but occasionally I’d find myself dying for it to pick up, and so rather than needing to know what happens next, I would be very comfortable putting the book down for the night. This isn’t a bad feature to have, but I will say if you are a highly impatient reader who needs constant stimulation and action, this is not the book for you.
Another thing that I did enjoy in this book was that at one point it is mentioned that Ceony attended Tagis Praff on a scholarship of 15,000 pounds. Now, of course, this sounded expensive, but I was thinking in modern day times. She even discusses a stipend with Magician Thane and he says she’ll receive 10 pounds a month. I initially was appalled, but in the novel she was thrilled. I was very confused, so I sat down and calculated what that would equal for the time period. Ceony’s 15,000-pound scholarship would actually equal just over $73,000 in today’s economy because in the early 1900’s a single pound was equivalent to $4.87. Her stipend added up to about $50 per month. I enjoyed getting a better grasp on this aspect of the book and am grateful the author included enough information for me to be able to come to these conclusions!
Our protagonist is Ceony Twill, and she is the only POV we have in this novel. Ceony starts off very coarse towards everyone she interacts with. In the few moments we see her with her prior teacher Magician Aviosky at the beginning of the novel, she is regularly reprimanded and scolded for her manners – or lack thereof. She is a spirited redhead that is essentially lashing out and throwing a tantrum. That being said, however, when Ceony discovers some key information about who Magician Thane is, and why she’s been forced to be a “Folder,” she soon decides her attitude must change. She continues to be witty and playfully argumentative, however, she begins to adopt a grateful attitude, and is even looking for ways to show this in her behavior. Aside from the tantrum at the beginning, Ceony is actually quite mature. She is driven, and dedicated to learning and bettering herself. She was a strong female lead, and she was a character I enjoyed getting to know.
Her teacher, Magician Emery Thane, is a bit harder to describe. Though we get some very deep insights into him later in the book, I can’t really discuss them without spoiling anything for you – so I won’t. What I can discuss is what we see during our surface interactions. Emery Thane is a bit of an oddball, and he has a very average appearance, aside from his striking eyes. He is a teacher at his core, so much so that I would truly describe it to be part of his personality. He thinks before he speaks, he’s slightly mysterious at times, and is extremely considerate. I love that he treats Ceony with respect and that he encourages her to be independent. Despite being the early 1900’s he doesn’t demand the usual “womanly” behavior that we are used to seeing in that time period. They coexist well, and I really loved that!
We have our villain in the story, who I am choosing not to name or address, and lastly, we have our sidekick, Fennel. Fennel is the perfect sidekick for any story and I spent the entire novel just wanting more and more of him. He’s interactive, playful, and fits so beautifully into the puzzle piece of this plot!
The Paper Magician is a “strolling” paced novel, with some incredibly deep underlying symbolism. It deals with Love, Loss, Magic, & Sacrifice. It encompasses a battle against one’s self and against a very real enemy, and also deals with betrayal. The characters are well written and relatable. I found myself pushing through Holmberg’s incredibly detailed descriptions just to get to the next verbal interaction. I rated this book “PG-12” because of the one time use of the word “whore,” and some heavily described scenes involving blood. If it weren’t for those things, I don’t see why an advanced middle-grade reader couldn’t enjoy this novel. Overall I would rate this novel 3.5/5 stars seeing how I personally wish it had been paced just a bit faster. That alone falls onto my personal preference, though. If you don’t mind a slow-paced fantasy, with a very interesting take on the world of magic, then this is definitely the book for you! I’m looking forward to reading the second book, The Glass Magician.
“Perhaps the man wasn’t so mad after all. Or maybe it’s a madness that I can learn to appreciate.” – Ceony
“Never dismiss the value of entertainment, Ceony. Good-quality entertainment is never free, and it’s something everyone wants.” – Magician Thane
“What Mg. Thane was teaching her had started to weasel its way into that part of her that wanted to know.” – Ceony
“How many others had she judged and set aside like that, thinking them no more than a one-sided piece of paper?” – Ceony