This three book series by Charlie Holmberg is a lot of fun. Full of magic and its share of conflict and gore, it’s a decent fantasy series, very easy to read in a sitting or two.
Ceony Maya Twill has just graduated from the Tagis Praff School for the Magically Inclined, at the top of her class. That should mean she gets to choose which branch of magic she’ll study; she desperately wants to be a Smelter, a magician that works with metals. But the magical world is short of Folders, those who work with paper, and she is assigned an apprenticeship with the most talented Folder in Britain, Magician Emery Thane.
Ceony feels like she is throwing away her life; she drags her feet to her bonding, hoping for a miracle that will save her from a future shackled to boredom. Never happens. And she is grateful, because the wonders that await are beyond her imagination. Animating paper creatures, bringing stories to life via shadowy illusions, short distance teleporting, fans that can create storm level winds. So much more.
The three books cover her two year apprenticeship, which, along with the wizardry and wonder of spell creation, also involve mystery and danger and death. She loses friends to evil, and in order to save her teacher, must face one of the dark magic Excisioners, who has, quite literally, stolen Thane’s heart.
Concept – awesome. I love the idea of a magician as just another job. No separation of the magical and non-magical world. The various areas of magic for specialization make sense. The descriptions of the Folding and the spells are fantastic, and I adore Fennel! A paper dog! Lovely. Flying paper birds, glowing paper stars, paper that can be used in self-defence, reading fortunes, travelling through mirrors, the ideas are limitless.
Ceony and Emery and the cast of characters are really well written. Their personalities are all distinct and developed, and I can picture each one clearly.
The execution of the story? This is where I get wishy-washy.
The story is set in the very early 1900s, in London. It took me a while to figure that out, as the time and setting seemed too modern, like the author wanted the story to be historical, but didn’t do quite enough research. Everything seemed just a bit off – language, technology, etc.
The voyage through Thane’s heart was an incredible idea, but far too detailed and lengthy in implementation.
The romance is unneeded, and just took up space, not really adding to the story. The violence is quite graphic, which again, does not seem necessary to, or consistent with, the story.
Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed reading the series. But I think the potential is there for a really great story, and Holmberg just didn’t know how to get there. I am not sure this story knows what it wants to be. A fantasy that wants to be a thriller that wants to be a romance…
It is appropriate for teens, and anyone, who love the idea of magic, and can handle some violence and gore.
The Paper Magician series is published by 47North.