Can magic bound to paper overcome the twisted magic bound to blood? Can a budding romance between an apprentice and a master not be awkward or creepy?
Alternate Victorian London is running low on the number of paper magicians have been in decline. To help their numbers, a magical academy forces one of its graduates (Ceony Twill) to become an apprentice of paper magician (Mg. Emery Thane).
That’s the premise of the first book, The Paper Magician, in this trilogy.
Why I Picked It Up
First off, Amazon had a deal on the first three books of the series, both in ebook and audio formats. Second, the covers (someone in marketing is getting their wings) drew me in and sparked my curiosity. And finally, I was at home for a week’s staycation and I figured I could knock the trilogy out before I had to go back to work.
Things I Liked (spoilery)
Simply put, I like the parts of the book that are off the wall bonkers. There is a part in the book when a villain, who had not been mentioned previously, appears and attacks Mg. Thane. The attack is nearly fatal, and all of the formal magicians are bummed because aparently saving him is out of the question. They decide to make him as comfortable as possible, and then most of them leave. But Ceony, doesn’t give up and for a large part of the book travels through the four chambers of his heart. Yes. She travels into his heart. Certainly not mind blowing, but (as I said before) it is bonkers.
It is through this adventure that we learn about the villain and she is legitimately bad.
The magic system itself is interesting, and in the second book we learn that it may not be as strict as we were once lead to believe.
Surprisingly, this is not a portal story. We learn about the magical system through Ceony. Since she did not really pay attention to paper magic in school (because who wants to be a paper magician?) she doesn’t really know what one can do.
On the more technicaly side, I’m usually very critical of flashbacks in any type of story telling. The first book clears the high bar I have for flashbacks and I don’t remember any in the second. The third book, well… is a different story for me (see the next section).
And finally, the author was courteous enough to keep all three books in series are roughly the same length. (Wondering why this important? Read my post about life as a Slow Reader).
Things I Didn’t Like (again spoilery)
There are way too many scenes involving food. I just don’t get it. Very few writers pull it off well, and everyone else just doesn’t and I really wish authors would stop including this.
The second book in the series is less bonkers. Which was disappointing for me because that was what I enjoyed most about the first book.
We are introduced to new characters in the second book. I found these additions to be clunky and it would have been helpful to have at least heard some of them mentioned in the first book.
The third book (The Master Magician) was too much of a romance for my tastes and I stopped reading it rather quickly. There is a fourth book (The Plastic Magician) and I think at least 2 more to follow, but it is really unlikely that I will pick them up.
GoodReads and BookTube
About 11% of the 48,620 ratings on goodreads are 1 or 2 stars. This surprised me. The reviewers that elaborated on why they gave a low rating centered on 2 themes. I’ve summarized them below and offer my opinion as well.
1) The dialogue is too modern for historical fiction. I don’t pretend to understand this frustration. I can easily suspend disbelief for the existence of magic in early 1900 London, I don’t see how a few contemporary phrases takes a person out of the moment. But clearly it does.
2) It felt rushed. I felt it was appropriately paced for novel that is around 200 pages. The author tells a complete story where a lot happens. It’s different and sometimes challenging. But that is pretty standard for a fantasy novel of that length. It will be different reading experience compared to a 400 page fantasy, which is different from a 700 page novel.
I gave both The Paper Magician and The Glass Magician 3 stars on goodreads (which translates to “I liked it”).
Here are what BookTubers are saying
Reviewers who liked it (focus on romance, no mentioned of bonkerishness):
A reviewer that didn’t like it (Pretty much didn’t like the part that was bonkers):