Book Review: The Paper Magician

I’ll admit, I’ve been in a bit of a reading funk.  After finishing the fantastic first four books in the Throne of Glass series and my lovely Victorian interlude, I had a bit of a book hangover.  Literally, I’ve tried to get into three books this week and have had no luck.  When I saw The Paper Magician (by Charlie Holmberg) on sale for $1.99, I thought, ‘hey, why not?’ and picked it up as research for my Queen manuscript (as it is set at the end of the Victorian era, sort of).  At the outset, I was excited — a new take on magic and a female protagonist (not to mention, a fairly striking cover).  Unfortunately, at 21% I had to designate the book as DNF (again, super rare for me).

Amy Schumer gif

Determined to see if the book got ANY better, I skimmed but could find nothing to hold my interest or understand why the book was so highly rated.  Goodreads falls more in line with my opinion of the book (i.e. most of the reviews echo my critiques and problems), but the Amazon reviews were mostly positive.

I hate to get too snarky, but when this book goes off the rails (and it thoroughly does so for a significant portion of the book in an interlude that adds nothing to the A storyline), I had to wonder how and why this manuscript was sold, if the editor just phoned in their work, or why Ms. Holmberg would choose to take such a large detour that essentially stops all action.  There are better protagonists, better stories and better integration of supernatural elements in many other YA novels (I can easily name five off the top of my head).

Paper Magician

As a lesson for my writing, my biggest takeaway was to be sure to have characters that readers can care about.  I felt NOTHING for nosy Ceony and her non-chemistry with the bland Magician Thane.  There were far too many unnecessary details and while creating a unique magic system had potential, the storyline could have been condensed by a factor of at least 40%.  Additionally, when introducing supernatural elements, I think it’s important to set boundaries and rules.  A fictional reality can have magic, but it needs to have some sort of definition (an element I’ll need to work on).


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