I embarked on this journey with Ceony Twill and Emery Thane over a year ago. I found The Paper Magician to be a cute, lighthearted read that appealed to me for a multitude of reasons. A young, determined heroine embarks on a chilling journey through her mentor’s heart in order to save his life. Also, the mentor just so happens to be handsome, kind, and a bit of an enigma.
But, while I enjoyed the first story immensely, the second one seemed to be a bit fumbling. There were a lot of characters that simply didn’t get enough screen time, Ceony’s decisions were almost indefensible, and the ending was… terrible. I had to take a break from the series, it was that bad.
But, here we are, finally ready to talk about my stalwart slog through what was supposed to be the final book in The Paper Magician series, The Master Magician. Beware some spoilers below.
Goodreads Rating: 3/5 Stars
This book was… frustrating. Ceony was foolish, childish, and often downright manipulative throughout the book. She was obsessed with Saraj, and unwilling to trust the people around her to do their jobs, putting herself at risk and allowing others to jeopardize their lives and livelihoods to help her.
I did not like Ceony in this book. I waited and waited for her to get her comeuppance, her karmic just desserts, or face some kind of consequences for her reckless and hurtful behavior.
… nope. She has a complete tantrum with her testing Magician, and though he’s snippy with her, that’s it. In fact, he sort of respects her more after she “stands up for herself” by screaming at him. She passes her test with only the slightest of hiccups. And all her snooping into Saraj’s whereabouts pay off when she finds Emery doing the same and they join forces to nearly get murdered, but end up saving the day.
Ceony’s ability to break her bond to paper and rebond to any magic is told to one person and then swept under the rug, never to be addressed again. And her completely pointless falling out with her sister is resolved by another stern talking to and the promise of hooking said sister up with her surly testing Magician.
Yes. You read that correctly.
So, Ceony gets everything she ever wanted, despite the fact she was a terrible person throughout this book. What really pissed me off about it was that her actions and obsession with Saraj are attributed to her PTSD over the events in the second book. I think Holmberg meant for it to come across as her seeking closure, that Ceony couldn’t take the next step in her life (passing her Magician’s exam, marrying Emery, etc.,) until she put Saraj and the Excisioners behind her.
What better way to do that than hunt down a known murderer yourself?
I also had problems with Ceony’s methods. She tracked down Saraj multiple times using her magic, which was cool to see, I guess. But Criminal Affairs, you know, the freaking magic police, couldn’t find him? Give me a break!
By page 130 I was prepared to give up on this book. Truly. I rarely give up, but I was so frustrated and disappointed that I wasn’t sure I could get through another 70 pages. But, I buckled down, got cozy in bed with a bunch of pillows, and made it happen.
And… I’m glad I did. This was not a good book. It was not a good way to end this series. I, obviously, have a lot of issues with it. But, those last 70 pages were fun and easily the best part of the whole book. Seeing Emery and Ceony work together to take out Saraj was really awesome, and it was written surprisingly well. I’m happy that Emery gets his happy ending.
I just wish Ceony could have suffered more consequences and had a growth arc of some kind. Because she was a petulant child through this whole series, and that was never addressed.
There is now a fourth book in the series, The Plastic Magician. It follows another newly graduated student as she becomes a Polymaker. I am not going to read it. To me, it sounds like The Paper Magician all over again, but with a ‘different’ character. A young woman come from America to study under a mentor in her field. There’s romance, intrigue, and magic. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Reviews on Goodreads are mixed, with most folks stating they like the main character more than they liked Ceony, which is understandable. But that the plot was just meh. Which, I also find likely.
Ultimately, I have so many other books queued up, waiting for my attention, that I can’t waste time on more Holmberg books. At least, not for a long, long time. Maybe in a year or two I’ll come around and decide to give it a chance. Maybe.
Ugh. I hate writing critical reviews. I know how much effort and work goes into writing a novel. I know that Charlie N. Holmberg loves her characters like they’re children, little pieces of herself that she put out into the world. I’m sorry. I really did love the first book. I just… didn’t love the other two.
I’m chipping away at Kill the Farm Boy and Side Jobs, and Brief Cases showed up on the hold shelf yesterday. I’ve got Nightflyers chilling on my entry table, along with Midnight Riot, and the digital audio for Bloodlist downloaded and waiting.
I have a lot of reading/listening ahead of me!
Until then, Bloggos,