Charlie Holmberg’s “The Paper Magician”

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The Paper Magician
Charlie Holmberg
fantasy, paranormal, romance

This is barely classified as romance, but it’s a love story I really enjoyed. You meet Ceony, a young magician-in-training who is about to begin her apprenticeship. In this world, magicians bond with a particular element and work only with that element the rest of their lives. Ceony has her heart set on being a smelter but lands in the home of a paper magician instead because there is apparently a shortage of paper magicians. So now we meet Emery Thane, her mentor. He’s a quiet, work-obsessed man who quickly shows a soft side for his young apprentice who’s clearly unhappy with the situation.
But the bonding time is short. Emery’s ex is back in the picture and, well, she’s of a much darker variety than paper magicians. The baddies in this world of magic are Excisioners and their element is blood. So you can imagine the terrible things they get up to. She shows up and does some serious damage, leaving Emery fighting for his life. Ceony, of course, must come to his rescue though she’s still very much a novice.
What is bizarre and captivating about the journey to save Emery is that Ceony must, literally, go through the chambers of his heart to save him. There are few ways to get to know someone quicker than that. It’s a traumatizing, heart-breaking, and heart-warming journey that never feels comfortable. And Ceony comes out of it completely different, of course. Things will never be the same and whatnot. If you’re looking for a massive love story, this isn’t it. It’s definitely a slow-burning relationship that only takes off a tiny bit in the second book. This is much more about the building tension between two people who really shouldn’t be together: mentor and apprentice.
This is an exceptionally fast read: just a couple hours. And I’ve already read the second one in the trilogy (also enjoyed it). It’s not easy to create a world of magic that doesn’t feel like it’s a knock off of any other well-known world. But the structure of their education, their society (magicians are out and open here), and the way they practice their magic make for an interesting background to this slightly dark story. And the Excisioners (who have to kill to gain their power) make for some pretty frightening bad guys. When all it takes is one touch for them to have the ultimate power over you, it’s not hard to create a suspenseful scene.
Really there are only three characters fully developed here: the love triangle. The other characters are a bit one-dimensional and feel they just exist to help move things along. The second book does a much better job making the characters feel real. But because much of this book takes place in Emery’s heart, it doesn’t feel odd to only focus on the three of them. Overall, the writing is clear and to the point. It’s great for a lazy afternoon and isn’t going to leave you really pondering much after. Enjoyable ride, though.

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