The Paper Magician by Charlie N Holmberg

I usually like to write reviews about good books.  Who wants to hear about books not to read?  HOWEVER, this book annoyed me so much that I decided to write a review about it anyway.

I’m a sucker for books about magic and if you throw in a nervous student and a school of magic such as the Tagis Praff School for the Magically Inclined I’m completely hooked.  We are launched into the world when Ceony Twill, our magician-in-training, is annoyed about being assigned to work Paper Magic rather than being bonded to one of the more interesting materials such as Metal, Plastic, or Glass.  Once bonded to a particular material, the magician will only be able to work magic with that material for the rest of their life.

Two great chapters introducing the concepts and setting and then a long tumble of disappointment and ending with a grunt of disgust.  The writing is just fine – nothing astonishing but clean and well put together – but the plot is long and pointless and the main character is an embarrassment.  The book is supposed to be about how much she wants to be a magician, how hard she has worked and what is important in her life, but within pages of first meeting her (older, more experienced) mentor, Emery Thane, it’s clearly going to be a romance novel instead of a fantasy novel.  She briskly sets about “helping out” by doing his laundry and cooking him wonderful meals, and neatening the house.  He tells her she doesn’t have to do this but she wants to take care of him.  Ugh.  This begins to make me ill.


The entire plot revolves around his ex-wife, who has gone to the dark side of the magic world.  She appears one day – beautiful of course –  and uses her magic to pluck the still beating heart from his chest and disappears.  Ceony manages to make him a paper heart to tide him over and goes tearing after the ex-wife.  Fully 1/2 of the book is Ceony traveling through his heart (the ex-wife tosses her in there) and witnessing his good memories, his hopes, his bad memories, and his fears (in the four chambers of the heart).  Then a quick bit of action while she figures out how to stop the ex-wife and get the heart back to him to save the day.  When she comes downstairs the next morning after he is all better, she puts on makeup, curls her hair and puts on a nice outfit whereas she hadn’t bothered before.

What kind of a heroine is this?  Honestly, I was disgusted. I don’t mind women wanting to look attractive for men, or looking for ways to show their love through cooking or whatever, but this whole character – our protagonist no less – was one giant stereotype for the traditional woman – complete with falling for the more experienced, older man, so that she could be his help-mate and support system. Yuck.  OK – to be fair – people have the right to live any way they like and write about whatever they like – but please don’t hide a traditional romance under the guise of cool magician story!

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