Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Charlie N. Holmberg - The Paper Magician

Ceony Twill arrives at the cottage of Magician Emery Thane with a broken heart. Having graduated at the top of her class from the Tagis Praff School for the Magically Inclined, Ceony is assigned an apprenticeship in paper magic despite her dreams of bespelling metal. And once she’s bonded to paper, that will be her only magic…forever.
Yet the spells Ceony learns under the strange yet kind Thane turn out to be more marvelous than she could have ever imagined—animating paper creatures, bringing stories to life via ghostly images, even reading fortunes. But as she discovers these wonders, Ceony also learns of the extraordinary dangers of forbidden magic.
An Excisioner—a practitioner of dark, flesh magic—invades the cottage and rips Thane’s heart from his chest. To save her teacher’s life, Ceony must face the evil magician and embark on an unbelievable adventure that will take her into the chambers of Thane’s still-beating heart—and reveal the very soul of the man.
Comment: I got interested in this book after seeing a glowing recommendation of it somewhere and by investigating, I got even more curious on the prospect of the romance implied in the blurb. Well, at least that was how I saw it and this month I finally started it.

In this imaginative new world, set in what seems to be the 1800s in England if I got it right, people are able to perform magic and there are many kinds of magic associated with several levels/areas.
Ceony, our protagonist, has studied hard with a scholarship and she dreams of working with jewels but because of some reasons, she ends up committing to folding, which is the art of working with paper.
In this world, once you pick an area of work you can't work with anything else anymore, magically speaking. Ceony is resigned though, and she is sent to work with Emery Thane, a renowned but eccentric folder.
While there, Ceony does learn a lot, she gets used to her routines and she seems to start accepting her fate fully when, one day, an Excisioner - someone who deals with the forbidden and dangerous blood magic- appears in the Thane residency, steals Thane's heart and he is practically left for dead. However, Ceony doesn't want to let it happen and she embarks on a journey to recover her mentor's heart...

This was a quick story. There wasn't a lot of setting up, of describing rules or anything, most of the information I was able to learn came from what the characters would do or work with and how that pertained to Ceony's learning. This means that, for me there was no info dumping and no time "wasted" in secondary things not directly related to the story.
On one hand, this was positive because it allows the reader to remain focused on what is happening. On the other hand, though, it means everything is very straight and narrow and lacking a little more passion/dedication for the reader to feel immersed in the world.

I liked the idea, the magic being part of people's lives but interestingly, classes and groups still exist, as do the differences and the unfairness between them. The author developed an interesting idea but didn't go too much out of established norms. It does help to keep the reader grounded to something.
As opposed to a completely new reality, for instance, where people lived by different rules or a world order of some kind.
The little notions related to the society the character live in were, like I said, given in only the necessary moments for the story to move along but I do think it's enough for readers to "get the picture".

The magic seen is obviously interesting, quite a take on how to be a magician. I liked this idea that paper is an area most magic users would not want, they consider it the weakest link in the chain, but through Ceony and her mentor we see amazing things. 
I wish the story was more dedicated to them, to their personal journey instead of giving the reigns to an outside force but, I suppose the idea is to spread things into the other books too. 
This means most of the plot shows us Ceony going through a magical journey inside her mentor Thane's heart, while she helps him so they both can unite forces and rescue his heart before he dies.
This journey teaches us a lot about Thane and who he is and, of course allows us to have a very small idea of where the relationship is going to go.

Despite the originality of the story, the adventure of the plot and the captivating scenes I could imagine while reading, I feel the author wanted so much to show how imaginative she was, there was a little element left out, the lack of empathy I felt with the characters. They are certainly good people and one scene here and there indicates some possibilities in them as characters with personality but this wasn't obvious at all. Everything was very confusing and vague and so direct that I don't think I ended up knowing them whatsoever, so they don't feel as "real" and I can easily disconnect myself from their plight.
This distance I kept feeling made me curious to read but not really invested emotionally so while it was an entertaining read, this was not as magical as it could be, to me.

All in all, this was a very imaginative story, great world building, so-so plot but sadly not compelling enough characters nor enough romance clues. Perhaps all this improves in the next book but I don't feel charmed enough to do it so soon. Maybe one day...
Grade: 6/10

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