Review(s) Take Two: The Paper Magician & The Glass Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Title: The Paper Magician
Author: Charlie N. Holmberg
Series: The Paper Magician #1
Pages: 224
Published: September 1 2014
Source: publishers via NetGalley
Rating: 3/5

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.

Title: The Glass Magician
Author: Charlie N. Holmberg
Series: The Paper Magician #2
Pages: 222
Published: November 4 2014
Source: publishers via NetGalley
Rating: 2.5/5

Three months after returning Magician Emery Thane’s heart to his body, Ceony Twill is well on her way to becoming a Folder. Unfortunately, not all of Ceony’s thoughts have been focused on paper magic. Though she was promised romance by a fortuity box, Ceony still hasn’t broken the teacher-student barrier with Emery, despite their growing closeness.

When a magician with a penchant for revenge believes that Ceony possesses a secret, he vows to discover it…even if it tears apart the very fabric of their magical world. After a series of attacks target Ceony and catch those she holds most dear in the crossfire, Ceony knows she must find the true limits of her powers…and keep her knowledge from falling into wayward hands.

The delightful sequel to Charlie N. Holmberg’s The Paper Magician, The Glass Magician will charm readers young and old alike.

This is not a true series review as the third and final book in the Paper Magician series, The Master Magician, is not out until 2015. But I started and finished both of Charlie Holmberg's published books in less than a day and a half and they kind of melded together into one story. They're both quite short stories so it's not hard to speed through all of Ceony and Emery's adventures, though be advised things can and will get weird before the end.

The Paper Magician starts things off well, and continues in good fashion for a period. It also introduces the totally fun and inventive magic system, one of the cleverest and most original I've come across in fantasy. Danielle explains it pretty perfectly here and I am firmly a fan of Holmberg's creativity. I'm less enthused when it comes to her plotting and pacing. Notably less polished on both counts in the first novel, there are just some odd ways the timeline plays out, combined with all-too-often infodumps/exposition, and not to mention how infrequently we feel any kind of presence from the antagonist.

The Glass Magician fared rather better in regards to plotting and especially pacing than its predecessor, but it also felt rote at times. Ceony and Ethan's nebulous relationship feels more "expected" than a wholly natural development for the two of them, for one example. The characters are likeable enough, I guess, but they're missing a certain spark, both individually and as a unit. I want to care about them more than I actually do -- I'm always a big fan of creativity and it's obvious Holmberg has that in spades.

Endings seem to be a problem area for this author. Both failed to deliver, to my disappointment. The second one was a more egregious flouting of the expected, but each felt more like a placeholder than offering any real resolution to the novel. I finished each book ready for the next but it's still a vaguely unsatisfying experience when the author seemingly cheats her own established worldbuilding at the expediency of a plot twist that wasn't that twisty lbr here.

There's always room for growth and this is a series with some serious potential. The third book could and has every possibility of being creative, fun, and memorable. The Paper Magician was a good starting point for the trilogy and while The Glass Magician was only slightly less impressive experience, it was still a good indicator of Holmberg's abilities. I will still look forward to reading The Master Magician when it publishes, but I won't rush out to buy the hardcover to find out the series end.

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