The Paper Magician / Charlie N. Holmberg
I’ve wanted to read this book ever since I first saw its cover in the bookstore. The illustrations are very similar to V. E. Schwab’s Darker Shade of Magic series, and they’re both about magic, but that’s more or less where the similarity ends for me.
I’d expected this to be a more adult read, I don’t really know why. The blurb at the back on my copy makes it sound very grown up, but really, when I donate this to my library I’m recommending it go into the general fiction area for students to check out if they want. There’s no sex or drugs or rock and roll. The only possibly worrying thing that jumped out at me is that our protagonist is 19 and falls in love with a 30 year old. If I’m being perfectly honest, this didn’t bother me for several reasons.
A) Nothing really comes of it. It’s not like they get into a relationship, we get no indication of the older person’s reciprocation or lack thereof… it might be an issue as the series progresses, but I haven’t got that far yet.
B) I have read so many trashy regency romance novels over the course of this year that that age difference barely even jumped out at me at all. This book is set in the 1800s, but…. well, I’ll cover the rest of it in my following point:
C) There really isn’t much character development. Or mise en scene. Or much of anything except moving the story forward.
Don’t get me wrong, I know that makes it sound like I thought the book was pointless, but that’s not it. I loved the take on magic in this book, and will be following up on the others in the series to read more about that. And I do like our protagonist’s love interest (it was probably his hampered love for dogs that did it for me – I am a sucker for a man who treats his dog well).
I like the way the story is set up – without giving too much away, we get to learn about the history of our characters in a very… exploratory manner. I’m not sure it works very well, but I appreciate that it’s a departure from the standard way of telling a story. I’m all about show-not-tell when it comes to books, but I almost think this one took that a bit too far? I wish there had been a little more telling, that I could have gotten a little more sense of who the people in this story are, what sort of world they live in, why the consequences matter, things like that.
Overall, I enjoyed it, and I wish someone I knew were reading it so I could talk about it a bit less enigmatically. Gave it a 3/5 on Goodreads.