Charlie N. Holmberg’s The Paper Magician is the perfect summer read. Set in the late 1800s in England, the story centres on Ceony Twill, a young lady who is about to begin her apprenticeship with Magician Emery Thane. Ceony graduated at the top of her class at the Tagis Praff School for the Magically Inclined and, as such, should have had top pick of which man-made material would be the source of her magic. Wanting to be a Smelder – those who were able to use magic through metal, Ceony is instead assigned to be an apprentice as a Folder using paper to channel her magic. Entirely unimpressed with her circumstances, Ceony arrives at Magician Thane’s cottage to begin her tutelage. While she is intrigued by her mentor, she’s convinced the Magician is incredibly odd.
Ceony, a step closer to accepting her new path, learns the beauty of paper magic with Magician Thane’s patient guidance. She learns how to animate paper so that hand-made snowflakes flutter down and, like real ones, are cold to the touch. She learns how to create animals, bringing them to life with simple commands. Magician Thane gifts Ceony a small paper dog, after a conversation in which Ceony reveals she had to leave her beloved dog at home because of her tutor’s allergies. It is then she realizes there is much more to her mentor than she first thought. During a session when Ceony reads Magician Thane’s fortune, an image of a dark-haired woman appears in Ceony’s mind with the name Lira. Shortly after this, Magician Thane leaves on a mysterious quest for six days, leaving Ceony to wonder where he’s gone.
Magician Thane returns home and soon after the woman from Ceony’s vision, Lira, barges into the cottage, attacking Ceony and ripping out Magician Thane’s heart. It is then Ceony learns that Lira is an Excisioner, a practitioner of the dark magic that commands the flesh. Magicians can only manipulate materials that are man-made and some believe that because humans are born and could technically be considered as being made from man, they have the right to control humans. Ceony quickly fashions a paper heart and puts it in Magician Thane’s chest to keep him alive.
Ceony embarks on a remarkable journey that literally takes her through Magician Thane’s heart. As she uncovers the secrets of who he is and how Lira is connected to him, she learns more about the material she is bound to, how to defeat Lira and her own growing feelings for her mentor. Each chamber of Magician Thane’s heart holds those memories and hopes most dear to him, but it also reveals his fears and his doubts and Ceony must make her way through all four chambers to save him.
Holmberg has weaved a delightful story reminiscent of The Night Circus that quickly ensnares readers and leaves them asking for more. Written in a language suitable for young adults but still appealing for adults, The Paper Magician is an excellent book to read for some light entertainment this summer and is available at The bookYard.