The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg Book Review

The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg is the first book in the four-part Paper Magician series.

Newly graduated from the Tagis Praff School for the Magically Inclined, Ceony Twill dreams of working with metal magic are dashed when she is assigned an apprenticeship in paper magic despite being top of her class. Crushed she arrives at the cottage of Magician Emery Thane to learn the craft she has always looked down on knowing that once she had bonded with paper that will be her only magic forever.

Under the wing of the brilliant master Folder, Thane, Ceony discovers that there is more to paper magic than she ever thought and learns that magic is not without its risk when she finds out about the devastating dangers of forbidden magic.

Just as she is coming to terms with her fate her teacher’s heart is ripped out of his body by an Excisioner. To save Thane’s life, Ceony must embark on a dangerous adventure and face the evil magician.

The end of this book was not quite what I was expecting, an element of romance is introduced and with the focus on it being the rescue of a heart, it felt a little too heavy-handed for me. However, I am not a romantic and I also realise that the trope is completely in line with the target demographic of the book. If you enjoy fantasy books where the magic and world setting share the stage with a romantic story then this is for you.

Excerpt from The Paper Magician

For the past five years, Ceony had wanted to be a Smelter. However, while most graduates of the Tagis Praff School for the Magically Inclined got to choose what material they dedicated their craft to, Ceony had been assigned.

“Not enough Folders,” Magician Aviosky had explained in her office.

Less than a week had passed since Ceony had heard this, and she still felt the tears that had stung the back of her eyes.

“Paper is a wonderful medium,” Mg. Aviosky had continued, “and one that’s lost credit in recent years. With only twelve acting magicians left in that discipline, we have no choice but to direct a portion of our apprentices that way. I’m sorry.”

So was Ceony. Her heart had broken at those words, and now, standing before the gate of Magician Emery Thane’s lair, she wished it had stopped beating altogether. Her hand gripped the wooden handle of her suitcase as she stared up at the monstrosity, even worse than her fitful dreams had imagined it to be. If it weren’t bad enough that Mg. Thane—the only Folder this side of the River Thames—lived on the wild outskirts of London itself, his abode looked like the creation of a campfire story. Its black walls stood six stories high. Scraps of worn paint peeled beneath the fingers of a sudden, foreboding wind that picked up the moment Ceony stepped foot onto the unpaved lane leading away from the main road. Three uneven turrets jutted up from the house like a devil’s crown, one of which bore a large hole in its east-facing side. A crow, or maybe a magpie, cried out from behind a broken chimney.

Every window in the mansion—and Ceony counted only seven—hid behind black shutters all chained and locked, without the slightest glimmer of candlelight behind them. Dead leaves from a dozen past winters clogged the eaves and wedged themselves under bent and warped shingles—also black—and something drip-drip-dripped nearby, smelling like vinegar and sweat. The grounds themselves bore no flower gardens, no grass lawn, not even an assortment of stones. The small yard boasted only rocks and patches of uncultivated dirt too dry and cracked for even a weed to take root. The tiles composing the path up to the front door, which hung only by its top hinge, were cracked into pieces and overturned, and Ceony didn’t trust a single one of the porch’s gray, weathered boards to hold her weight long enough for her to ring the bell.

“I’ve been shot to hell,” Ceony murmured.

Mg. Aviosky, her escort, frowned beside her. “Never trust what your eyes see at a magician’s home, Miss Twill. You know that.”

Ceony swallowed against a dry throat and nodded. She did know that, but she didn’t care to, not now.