The Paper Magician is a Gaslamp Fantasy that was so boringly mediocre that I want to weep at the wasted potential. The ideas behind the story, and the world building, are all deserving of a far better novel then this one ended up being. You see people can do magic with any kind of man made material, but you have to pick one particular kind of material (paper, or smelted metal, or in a twist-human flesh (because humans are man-made-get it?)) and once you choose that material, that’s all you have to work with. It’s a fascinating idea that is just wasted on this story.
Ceony Twill graduated top of her class at the magic school, which should have given her first pick of material she wanted to bond to and thus where to spend apprenticeship. However, she’s forced to take up paper, which was her last pick. Why she’s forced into paper wasn’t really revealed, it just is. So she spends about two weeks under the tutelage of Magician Thane and then he’s attacked by an Excisioner-one of those flesh magicians who are always evil apparently- and his heart is literally ripped from his chest. Don’t worry, that doesn’t kill him because apprentice Ceony makes him a paper heart as a substitute that will hold him over for a day or two. Despite only spending about two weeks or less with Magician Thane, Ceony has started to fall in love with him and so sets out to save him by finding his heart. I’d like to remind you that Ceony has only been practicing magic for less than two weeks at this point. So off she goes, and does remarkable things despite never having ever really done much magic in practice.
So off she goes. If you’re wondering whether or not she’s successful you’re asking the wrong questions about this book. Annoyingly her adventure centers less around her growth and change as a character and more around the history and development of Magician Thane, the person that she is TOTALLY in love with by the time the book ends. (TWO WEEKS YOU GUYS. TWO WEEKS-I’m not at all bothered by the timeline, why do you ask?) You see, as part of rescuing his heart (IT’S A METAPHOR YOU GUYS, SEE THE EVIL PERSON WHO STOLE HIS HEART IS ALSO HIS EVIL EX-WIFE), she has to go through the four chambers and learn about who is as a person, and only once she does that can she destroy the evil ex and return to her true love/teacher.
UGH, the more I write about this book, the more annoyed I get. (oh dear- I have all three of these books and I’m going to have to read them all because I own them. Yes, I have to- it’s a THING.)
Also, I want to return to the idea that Excisioners are always evil. They’re set up as the bad guys of this series and there isn’t really a reason presented beyond ‘they’re evil’. The writing isn’t really strong enough for me to buy into the idea that one kind of magic is evil simply because it is evil. Excision is presented as a necromantic magic, which granted has a terrible reputation in fantasy but think of what it could be given a little imagination. Oh, you need surgery to remove a tumor from your brain? NO PROBLEM I CAN DO FLESH MAGIC. But that side of it isn’t explored at all, Excisioners are just evil because they’re evil.
Basically this book could have been SO MUCH MORE. And it wasn’t. AND UGH. I skimmed through most of it. To be honest I wasn’t really that annoyed with the book when I finished. It was fine, mediocre but not wretched fantasy; it was really only once I started writing this review and thus looking at how the book was constructed that I started to get super annoyed at it. If you don’t think about the book too hard it’s meh, but thinking about what it is and how it’s constructed (AND HOW CEONY’S WHOLE ARC CENTERS AROUND A MAN SHE MET TWO WEEKS AGO UGH), and I just throw my hands up in despair.
So two stars for being a brainless read. One star after I started to actually think about the book.