Publishing Information: September 1st 2014 by 47North
Page Count: 224
Genre: Steampunk, YA, Magical Alternate History, Romance
Note: The First Book in the Paper Magician series, and debut novel of Charlie N. Holmberg
They say to never judge a book by its cover. In this instance I didn’t listen. I had been passing through my local Barns & Noble with the intent of buying basically nothing (fool that I am) and this was sitting on an endcap.
Triple threat, and I was done. There is something I enjoy about a setting that incorporates history and magic. So I decided to fork over the dollars and pick myself up some entertainment.
The story revolves around Ceony, a young magician girl who aspires to be a Smelter, a mage who works with metals. Her dreams are dashed, however, when her academy sets her up in an apprenticeship with (drumroll, please) a paper magician. It’s heartbreaking for the young lady. Paper magic is the weakest of magics, and good for nothing but entertainment.
The lady mage is taken to meet one Mg. Emery Thane who is (shockingly) attractive and relatively young. Without giving too much away Mg Thane has a bit of a secret to his history that will get him in the kind of trouble where he needs rescuing.
How awesome is it to have a story where the lady is rescuing the dude? Very.
The Paper Magician has some excellent strong points. It’s written in elegantly simple prose which make for a quick, albeit well crafted, read.I think I finished the book in about six hours altogether. It had some really beautiful lines too. “Remember you are much different now than you were an hour ago” and “One of his odd smiles, for it was all lip and no eye” and, my personal favorite, “Curse Emery Thane for being such a difficult man to rescue!”
The characters are easy to distinguish from one another. Ceony is young, nineteen during the course of this book, and you can hear that in her speech. Emery hides his uncertainty behind a smile and is a master of derailing questions about himself. It’s easy to feel like you know them from the beginning.
The magical theory is well thought out and easy to understand. Magic can only be created through man made items. Paper, Metals, Rubber, Glass. There is only one forbidden form of magic, Flesh, and it ends up being a big deal in this particular story.
The story is a nice mesh of being heartbreaking and lighthearted. There is a gentleness to the main character that saves her from being that ‘I’m badass because I have traditionally masculine traits’ kind of heroine, which I like. But there are some rather dark moments which are handled by the author and the characters beautifully.
It does have a few drawbacks, however. I was not a fan of the villain being your typical dark curvaceous beauty while the heroine is the waifish pale blonde. I feel that this continues the trope of ‘busty ladies are bad’ and I’ve slowly grown jaded to the trend. I happen to be both brunette and busty and a very nice person, generally speaking.
The romance, while handled well, hits me on a couple of squicky notes. I’m not a fan of a person in a place of power and a person who is in their care becoming romantically involved, even when it starts on the part of the person in care. This is a personal preference, I know, but an important one.
Ceony has no friends. This annoys me. There are reasons that she might draw away from closeness (for the sake of spoilers I wont say why) but these reasons don’t really stop her from developing an attachment for Mg. Thane. I really wish that she had a friend or two upon whom she could have called to help with her adventure. It would have made me feel a little more comfortable about the romance aspect.
Also, I realize that this is a novel geared towards the Young Adult generation but I really feel that the story could have been lengthened to allow me to get a little more invested in the setting. The author clearly has the literary skills to craft fantastic prose, but there were certain moments where I was hungry for more description and a few more scenes.
Don’t get me wrong, I did like the story. I would definitely recommend, but the chances of me reading it more than once are slim. I will, however, be picking up the second book when I have the spare money. I would give it a 7.5/10