The Paper Magician books include: The Paper Magician, The Glass Magician and The Master Magician, written by Charlie N. Holmberg.
These three books follow Ceony Twill, a turn-of-the-century (last century) young woman who is thrown into an apprenticeship with an eccentric paper magician, Emery Thane. Of course she doesn’t want the job. I mean, who wants to have the ability to enchant paper? No, she wanted to be a smelter, a magician who can manipulate metal. To be honest she would have taken anything other than paper. But she comes from a poor family with no connections, so her magical school didn’t really feel the need to take her desired subject into consideration.
Ceony Twill is whip-smart and a pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps sort of girl. She learns quickly that paper magic isn’t so dowdy and useless after all. Instead, it is whimsical, imaginative and unusually clever. So too is her tutor, Magician Thane, who it turns out has a bit of a dark and sordid past that mainly revolves around his ex-wife. Said ex-wife is an excisioner—a magician who uses human blood and body parts as their weapons of choice—and in a fit of revenge, steals Magician Thane’s heart right out of his chest. Ceony embarks on a dangerous chase to locate her tutor’s heart and return it to him before the magical spell keeping him alive wilts and she loses him forever.
The following two books, without giving anything away, involve more magicians and more evil excisioners, hell bent on ruling the world of magic. Ceony has to find other creative—and yes, magical—ways to keep the people she loves safe… and alive.
Boy oh boy, did I love these books. Holmberg is a wonderful writer with an effortless hand at world-building. She doesn’t spend page after page of over-describing every aspect of her unusual, magical universe, but rather leads the reader into it and allows us to fill in the gaps. She never overcomplicates things. Even her writing style is to-the-point, with the perfect balance of old-fashioned syntax and a modern approach to story-telling.
Her characters are compelling. Ceony is cute, but not beautiful, kind yet feisty. Magician Thane is quiet and thoughtful, but unusually withdrawn and insular. The baddies, the excisioners that is, are truly cruel and blood thirsty enough to send chills up anyone’s spine. And then there’s the magic… oh the magic! Holmberg sets up the magical rules of her world early on and ensures that every scene, every chapter, includes at least a dash it. However, rules are meant to be broken and it’s clear from the end of the first book that Ceony will be the one to do magic that no one believed possible.
I would recommend this book series to anyone who loves fantasy, historical novels (especially of the Victorian variety) and romance. But don’t expect any corset-ripping. It’s pretty obvious from early on that sex scenes aren’t Holmberg’s style, and it might have something to do with the books being set in the extremely sexually-repressed Victorian era.
I dare you to read the first book and not be hooked.