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.
Do you want to know what one of my favorite childhood books was? Well, too bad if you don’t, because I’m about to tell you: Howl’s Moving Castle. I first learned about the story after watching the Studio Ghibli film. Then I learned it was based off a book and I vroomed to the bookstore so fast, my head was spinning as I stumbled to the checkout counter.
Ok, no, I actually had my mother drive me, but still.
The Paper Magician definitely has Howl’s Moving Castle vibes, both in the premise and in the writing style. We have a young lady, apprenticed to a more established magician, using magic that feels, well, wholesome. Like the magic you might find in a fairy tale, or maybe even in the first book of Harry Potter, when we were all so impressed with Hermione at making a feather float.
And I love that kind of magic. It gets me right in my kid-at-heart feels, to see such basic, simple magic that actually feels magical. Not your standard, run of the mill magic that you feel in the later Harry Potter books, or in other fantasy stories with complicated magic systems. Where it lacks that sense of wonder and awe.
Nope, The Paper Magician makes the magic feel magical, and I think I was more excited than Ceony to see the lessons progress. Holmberg does a fantastic job capturing that sense of magic, easily making it one of the finest parts of the book.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with how the story progressed, but I wasn’t a fan of the past-present bouncing. The first installment of The Paper Magician series felt disjointed in that it was two stories bridged together through Ceony’s journey in Thane’s heart: we have Ceony’s quest and then the events Thane experienced that made him the man he is. It made sense, logically, to have the back-and-forth with the flashbacks and the present intertwined, but I felt like they should have been two different stories instead. There was so much packed into each story that taking the time to elaborate and flush out each part would have made more sense, to me at least. But, like I said, there’s nothing wrong with how the story was presented–it just didn’t do it for me.
Overall, The Paper Magician captivated and entranced with it’s wonderment. I read all three books in rapid succession (I think it took me 2 days!) and this first installment does a wonderful job of laying the groundwork for the rest of the series while also being a self-contained story. I’m giving it 4.5 stars and would definitely recommend it if you’re in the mood for some light, magical entertainment.