Book Review – The Master Magician (The Paper Magician #3) by Charlie N. Holmberg

Blogland,

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.

dot dot dot yes

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

master magician

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.

the plastic magician

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,

 

BZ

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Book Review – The Glass Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg

Blogland!

I finally have a calm moment to try and write this book review.

Oregon is… in a weird place right now. A vast majority of the state is in flames as forest fires ravage my green home. Salem is nestled in the Willamette Valley, and is safe (so far) from the wildfires, but the Columbia River Gorge, Central Cascades, and Southern Oregon are all on fire. Ash is falling from the sky in Salem, coating cars and outdoor furniture, and tainting the air in a grayish-brown haze that makes breathing uncomfortable for many.

It’s pretty tragic, and terrifying.

But, that’s just another disastrous event I can tack on to this summer. I worry for the forests and natural beauty of Oregon, and my thoughts go to the people these fires have displaced. I heard it might rain on Thursday, and I sincerely hope it helps.

But, let’s talk about The Glass Magician!

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Blah blah Spoilers Ahead blah blah

In this sequel to the very enjoyable The Paper Magician, Ceony must face the consequences of the first book.

It’s been three months since the events of the first book, and life has gone back to normal for Ceony and Emery Thane, much to Ceony’s dismay. You see, she saw her future with Emery in the fortuity box, and she’s eager to get their romance rolling. But, though she now calls him by his first name, and they’ve fallen into comfortable domestic routines, they have carefully danced around their feelings for one another.

When Ceony is at the center of a series of attacks from the Lira’s cohorts (Emery’s ex-wife, and Excisioner baddie from the first book) things begin to heat up between the Magician and his apprentice. One scene that stood out was when Emery asked Ceony why she did all she did to save his heart. Her response was quiet and almost hurt, “don’t ask me that. You know why.”

Cue that painful disgusted sound that is synonymous with getting your heart twisted and wrung out to dry.

Her answer didn’t make Emery deny her words or even deny his own feelings, but he did share his doubts about the morality of such a relationship, between a Magician and his apprentice. That was enough of an admission for Ceony. But, the subtle change in their relationship doesn’t go unnoticed.

Magician Aviosky, the Glass Magician that mentored Ceony before she graduated from Pragis Taff, has suspicions that the relationship between Ceony and Thane may not be purely professional or scholarly, and she greatly disapproves.

So, not only are they trying to avoid death at the hands of crazy Excisioners (Magicians who have Bonded to blood), but they’re trying to keep nosy busy-bodies out of their private business. Even if those busy-bodies might have a point.

The best part of the book, for me, was when Emery was headed to the train station to hunt down Saraj (Bad Guy #2), leaving Ceony behind in London. She gets out of the cab, and fearing that she may never see Mg. Thane again, calls across the courtyard, “If you’re going to get yourself killed, the least you could do is kiss me goodbye!”

And he DOES IT! I definitely squealed, chock-a-block full of that ridiculous giddy feeling when two characters FINALLY get together.

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Me when Emery actually KISSED Ceony!

But, that was one shining bright moment that was quickly snuffed by the end of the book. Not story-wise, though that does get dark very quickly. But, writing-wise. Ceony is left on her own, dropped off at Mg.  Aviosky’s house in London. When she arrives she finds that Grath Cobalt (Bad Guy #1), who is actually a Glass Magician, not an Excisioner, has killed Aviosky’s apprentice and tortured Mg. Aviosky herself.

Some epic shit goes down, and Ceony does some quick thinking to save the day before she passes out and the point of view shifts to Emery…

WHAT? Like… WHAT THE WHAT? You can’t just do that! You can’t just knock your main character unconscious and then swap POV when you have literally NEVER SWAPPED POV BEFORE!

It felt cheap. The easy way out from a writing perspective. We watch Emery deal with Saraj, for a short chapter, and then go back to Ceony’s POV in which she awakes and Emery is already back and everything is said and done. WHAT?!

I’m still pretty worked up about it, and I think the only thing that could fix it for me is if the next book, The Master Magician, alternates point of view consistently. Otherwise I will continue to feel a bit put out over this.

Another thing I was less than satisfied with is the ending itself. The book sort of just… ends. The bad guys are handled, Ceony will be okay, and Emery is there. But, she broke her Bond to paper in order to Bond with glass and defeat Grath. She tells Emery this, and how she needs sand to break her Bond with glass so she can go back to paper, and he is confused but so relieved she’s all right that he just sort of nods and promises to get her some.

the paper magician

That’s it. That’s the end. No demand for an explanation of how she somehow managed to break the main tenet of their magic system, no in scene moment of performing the ritual and re-Bonding with paper. Nothing.

I really enjoyed the majority of this book, but the last 20 pages or so left me feeling gypped (I really don’t like this word but it is the right one in this scenario). When your book is only 213 pages long, you can’t have a reader upset at 10% of them. Just saying.

Anyway, I have all my hopes pinned on the last book in the series. Hopefully it will redeem this one for me. Either way, I love the characters enough to keep reading. It’ll be a little while before I get to that one though, since I’m still reading The Stone Sky, and about a million other things at once.

Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but it feels like it. Check out my Goodreads to keep tabs on my ridiculous reading schedule as I try to make up for lost time to get to 65 books this year.

And until next time, Blogland,

 

BZ

Book Review – The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg

Good evening Blogland!

Sorry this is so late, but I procrastinated by talking with out of town family for hours today. Then I helped walk Trevor through some stretches before he got into his workout today. So, here I am ready to talk all about our book club meeting and The Paper Magician.

Last night the book club congregated at Taproot, our favorite local bar with healthy eats and a very laid-back atmosphere. Towards the back of thetaproot building there’s a nook I refer to as the Book  Nook, where the owner (who also was the Officiant at my wedding) put up a ton of shelves with old hardback books from library rummage sales. Coupled with the worn, comfortable couches and custom wood coffee and end tables, it’s the perfect spot to meet.

And everyone showed up! Those of you following along these last couple years know that it’s a rare meeting when everyone’s in attendance and everyone read the book. I was really excited last night.

But, I’m even more excited because everyone was really thrilled with The Paper Magician.

This is the part where  I tell you that there are spoilers ahead. You were warned.

The book is set in the late 1800s, just outside of London. Ceony Twill has just graduated from The Tagis Praff School for the Magically Inclined, in half the time, only to have her hopes crushed. She wanted to be a Smelter, a magician who deals in metal, but instead will be a Folder- a magician bonded to Paper. Print

It’s important to note that once a magician has bonded with their element, all other forms of magic are unavailable to them

While Ceony never really reveals why she wanted to desperately to be a Smelter, she is crushed when she’s delivered to the home of Mg. Emery Thane, who is to be her mentor for the next 2-6 years.

And though he’s younger than she imagined, and attractive in a thin, nerdy way, she’s an absolute brat her first day with him. He knew that Folding was not what she wanted, and he did his damnedest to show her the wonders of Folding, all prepared before her arrival. Paper snowflakes, cut and painstakingly Folded, and then imbued with a chill all of their own. An entire garden of paper tulips, blooming in the wind. Paper birds flitting about the house, and Jonto, a paper skeleton capable of simple butler-esque tasks.

Oh! And, on the second day, after seeing her stroking a small dog collar mournfully, Thane stayed up all night to fold her a small paper dog, who she names Fennel. He’s the size of a terrier, and has all the anatomy of a dog, Folded in complicated patterns and links. That gesture made me cry pretty good.

And so Ceony starts her studies. But, just as she’s coming around to her lot in life, prepping meals and memorizing her Folds, Emery’s ex-wife shows up and rips his heart of his chest. Literally. She’s what’s known as an Excisioner, a magician who manipulates human flesh. It’s a forbidden practice, and one Ceony knows nothing pretty much nothing about.

Ceony’s quick thinking saves the Magician, but only temporarily. A paper heart, no matter how well Folded (her’s wasn’t) can only last so long. So she sets out, against the Magician Councils orders, to retrieve Emery’s heart and save his life.

Using some advanced magic left behind by Thane, Ceony is able to track Lira (the ex-wife) to a secluded cave on the coast, and there she has the  Magician’s heart in a ceremonial bowl of his own blood.

Unsure of how else to get the heart back, Ceony uses her small pistol on the woman, only to find that the Excisioner was able to manipulate her flesh into spitting the bullet out.

This woman means business. But so does Ceony, because she was starting to fall for Emery. And she refused to go home without his heart.

Lira worked some dark magic that sends Ceony into Emery Thane’s heart, and there she’s on the run, fleeing through the chambers of his still beating heart to try and escape the evil woman, as well as find a way out.

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Fanart entered in a competition, Pages of Adventure by Jynette Tigner

Ceony learns a lot about Thane as she travels through his heart. Each chamber has a different theme to the memories. Good memories, bad memories, hopes, and fears are all presented, and Ceony must maneuver through them to find a way out.

I don’t want to give too much away, because I really liked this portion of the book. What a crazy cool way to develop a character, by literally taking a stroll through his heart!

I didn’t expect to enjoy this book so much, especially since it’s so short, only 213 pages. The world building is thin, and the clubbers had some questions in that regard, same as I did. Are Magicians a public fact? How much do magicians earn? How many are there? These kinds of things. We wanted more!

But, ultimately, this story is about Ceony and Emery, and establishing the magic, which is all done very well. The book club agreed, all of them eager to read on to the next books. I already have the rest of the trilogy on the Library Book table, waiting for me to finish up with The Six-Gun Tarot.

So, I very much recommend this book. It’s whimsical, romantic, and cute, but also has some darkness to it that keeps it from being too sappy. You can tell it’s Holmberg’s first novel, but I have every confidence that things get ironed out as she continues to tell Ceony’s story. As it is, I did enjoy the dialogue and the prose very much, and I will admit that I would read aloud to myself in British accents, because I’m a nerd like that.

Don’t worry, only my dog was subjected to it. I was otherwise very much alone.

Anyway, I hope you all give The Paper Magician a shot. It was a ton of fun, and I look forward to reading more from this author.

Until next time, Blogland.

 

BZ