Reading an incredibly disappointing novel, for me, makes me long for something simple and easy. Luckily, the book I’d chosen from all the ones waiting on my Kindle was perfect for that. Charlie Holmberg’s The Paper Magician is the first in a series of fantasy novels about a young apprentice magician, Ceony Twill. Ceony has just finished her studies at the Tagis Praff School for the Magically Inclined; much to her chagrin she has been assigned an apprenticeship with a paper magician. Ceony had always wanted to work with metal, and once you’re bonded to a material that is the only magic you can do for the rest of your life. But, as there is a dearth of paper magicians, Ceony is forced into working with paper. She is assigned to Magician Emery Thane, a quirky young magician with incredible enough talent he makes Ceony rethink all her previous distaste for paper. Just as their lessons start to get really interesting, however, an evil magician (who also happens to be Emery’s ex-wife) storms into their happy home and steals Emery’s heart. Literally. Ceony is able to fashion him one out of paper to keep him alive, and pursues Lira (that is the ex-wife’s name) to try to save Emery and get his heart back.
This was an enjoyable read. I assume this is a young adult series because it was so easy to read; I don’t mean that to be anything negative. The last novel I read I kept having to force myself to turn pages; The Paper Magician was easy to become engrossed in and was paced almost aggressively. Holmberg is descriptive enough with the surroundings and the delightful paper magic Ceony learns, but isn’t overly flowery or repetitive. I enjoyed Ceony as a main character. She is pretty self-aware at 19, and though she can be embarrassed by her thoughts and feelings, she doesn’t seem to have any inclination to cower or demure when faced with tough interactions. Emery Thane is kind of a Rochester, but a lot kinder from the outset. There are some character motivations that remain elusive. I am not sure if that is something that will become clearer in the second or third novels, or if it’s just something Holmberg failed to flush out. This would make a cool movie, especially as for a large portion of the tale, Ceony is trapped in Emery’s heart and must travel through all its chambers to discover a way to help him. Each of the four chambers represents something of Emery’s hopes, memories, regrets, and fears, so it’s kind of like Scrooge with the Christmas ghosts but without the spirit guide and it’s Ceony and not Emery himself. There’s a cute paper dog as well!
I normally like to outline a novel’s failures but I can’t really think of any major ones. As I mentioned earlier, I think learning more about the motivations behind some of the characters’ actions would have been great, but I don’t feel like the novel suffers greatly for it. This is a short, light read and works well regardless of that drawback. I also wish someone would just tell me how to pronounce Ceony. I could probably Google that. I will look into the next entry into the series, definitely.