Review: The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg


Genre: Young-Adult, Fantasy
Pages: 224
Series: The Paper Magician Trilogy #1
Release Date: September 1, 2014

3 Stars


When I first read a book by Charlie N. Holmberg, I found it to be quite good. The idea was very interesting, the liked the characters, and the writing had a, and I’m quoting my review here, “whimsical quality”. I still had problems with it though, and they were regarding the pacing and the fact that many things were left unexplained. The book was Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet.

My feelings regarding this book are quite similar. Except that the writing isn’t as good since this was written before that one.

The novel is set in, as far as I remember, early twentieth century London. But it’s a different world, with magicians. Anyone who has an affinity for magic can enroll in a magic school. After school, you have an apprenticeship and then you get magician status. The protagonist, Ceony, wanted to be a metal magician, but got stuck with paper under Magician Thane. At first, she’s very sceptical, but she soon learns that paper isn’t as weak as everyone assumes. And when Magician Thane is put in mortal danger, she must use what she’s learnt to rescue him.

The idea behind this magic system is that you can only be a magician of (or bond with) one thing and that thing has to be manmade, which is different from the usual. And it’s all very cool to read, until you stop to think about things.

For example, we’re told that the magic school is very expensive. So what if you can’t afford to got there? Will your abilities somehow be taken away so that you don’t harm anyone? Or will they just let you keep them and teach yourself? Is teaching yourself even possible? How does the presence of magic affect the world? What’s people’s attitude toward it? Is there a history? What percentage of people have magic? What is the place of magicians in the world, like politically and socially?

There are so many questions and barely any of them answered. Even the few details I’ve given regarding the world could potentially be wrong because the world-building was practically non-existent.

There were things that were good, of course. I really like the magic itself. Magical origami. How cool is that? I loved seeing different aspects of Folding. I really liked both the protagonist, Ceony and Thane. Ceony was sometimes childish, but still eager to learn. She was very brave and caring. Thane was just an absolute darling.

The writing was fine but it could have been better, especially during a long sequence in the middle of the book regarding a heart (I found the heart sequence very difficult to buy in to). That long sequence was long. Meaning, it dragged. Not a lot, but still. I would have liked it to be shorter so we could explore a bit. Maybe answer some of the questions? It really would have given the book a more realistic sense, to know that there is a world outside of the ongoing story.

Overall, this was a fast read that’s better if you don’t put too much thought into it or demand much detail. If you’re able to enjoy books of the sort (I am, for the most part), than you should check it out. I enjoyed the read. As for the sequels… maybe. I’ve heard bad things that make me not-excited. I might get to them eventually.


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