I just don’t know what to do with this series. The Glass Magician is a followup to The Paper Magician, with which I had significant problems but mostly forgave it based on the strength of the concept. It is that same strength of concept that led me, some time later, to read the sequel, despite my misgivings. And now?
There’s just not a lot here, and it is so frustrating. There is no sophistication to the plot or characters, and the whole concept (a magician learns basic magical principles, then bonds to a forged element — paper, glass, metal, fire, and I have issues with fire being a part of this “man made” list but whatever — for the rest of his/her life and masters all manner of spells that can manipulate that thing) gets tweaked to within an inch of its life. My primary complaint about the first book was how it threw away what could have been a lot of promising world-building for a haphazard love story that’s not reciprocated by one of the characters, except in part through this subconscious sequence that allows the one with the crush to keep hope alive. In the sequel, the author spends less time on that aspect of it overall, but still focuses on it as the emotional heart of the story when there is, potentially, so much more interesting material that could develop out of the concept.
Both books were characterized by Ceony, our protagonist and magician apprentice, being frustrated by being left out of “the action” and then deciding, because of reasons, that she is still the only one who can fix the situation. Her, and her alone, and not the dozens of experienced magicians in her orbit. But because this is how these books work, she’s right, of course. An obvious parallel is Harry Potter, who managed to get a lot of shit done even as a student first learning magic, but that worked a lot better for two reasons: 1) his skills in most situations were approximately equal to his foes and/or whomever he was facing had a significant handicap in his earlier years to justify his success, 2) he was a natural target of his true enemy, so his being drawn into action was a thing that happened by necessity and not simply because he was too stubborn to let the adults handle it. In The Paper Magician and its sequel, the motivations of the villains are too poorly drawn out to justify Ceony’s involvement, and moreover the villains are described as at the top of their game, so it’s farcical that Ceony even stands a chance.
I have the final book saved on my Kindle, staring at me. I’m enough of an optimist and completist that I’ll probably go through with it because I want to see if Holmberg finally makes good on the promise delivered by the concept, but I’m not holding my breath.