The Paper Magician, The Glass Magician, The Master Magician
It is the early 1900s, that much is apparent, with the use of telegraphs transitioning into the telephone and automobiles on the roads. Or is it apparent? There is magic here, so things may have developed at different rates. The premise is that there is magic in man-made materials, but in order to wield it you have to bond to it, so people can only use one kind of magic. That part I get, but that ‘man-made’ part seems a bit nebulous to me. I can see paper and plastics, and forged metals and glass, but fire? I know stone is out, even when carved, but that seems to be the only one. Maybe air, water, dirt, and plants are out too, but we don’t seem to know anything about those yet. You have Folders with paper, Smelters with metal, Gaffers with glass, Polymakers with Plastics, Sipers with Rubber, Pyres with Fire, and Excisioners with Flesh. One of these things is not like the other.
The Paper Magician
We begin with Miss Ceony Twill, a bright young lady of 19 who is making her way to her apprenticeship. She had had high hopes of becoming a Smelter, one with their magic bound to metal, but due to a shortage, she is being forced into becoming a Folder, bound to mere paper. One cannot become a magician without going through an apprenticeship, and one cannot become an apprentice without binding ones magic to a single element. And once you are bound, that’s it, that’s your magic, and you’re stuck with it. So with Ceony’s options being a Folder or not becoming a magician at all, she reluctantly starts her journey with paper. Little did she know what paper could do!
Her mentor is Magician Emery Thane, one of the best Folders there is, even if he is a bit eccentric. Ceony seems determined to dislike him, and when he shows decent human characteristics, she feels super guilty. Good! She was being a bit bitchy and petulant over the whole thing. Emery Thane made some mistakes in judgement in the past, but he seems a little too perfect otherwise. Some characters in the book apparently don’t like him, but he seems an overall nice guy to me. One of those mistakes comes back to his life, and Ceony has to make a journey (more than one kind) in order to save him. The first journey she takes makes sense, but the next could be off-putting to some. It may not fit in with how the reader perceived the universe of the series.
The Glass Magician
(Sorry, this is falling under “middle-book-in-the-series syndrome,” in that I read through the series all at once and the review of this one kind of gets shafted.) While Ceony may have saved Emery Thane from imminent death, he is not completely out of danger. And now because of her actions, neither is she. The method with which she saved Emery has gained the attention of some notorious criminals, and while Ceony doesn’t quite understand how she did what she did, she knows it cannot fall into the wrong hands. We meet some more people and go some more places, which is nice. There is a lot of waiting around, and hiding, and meetings. In the manner of youths in novels, Ceony thinks she can handle dangerous situations on her own, and tries to play hero. But playing hero has a cost. She does learn an important skill toward the end of the book that plays a big part in the next one. Things are a lot more serious, and a lot more dangerous. And Ceony suffers a major blow at the end, and she isn’t the one who pays the price. Ceony is also not sure about her relationship with Emery. She knows what she learned in the last book, and he is a bit more affectionate, but there is a line he won’t seem to cross. (A lot of people get annoyed at her relationship issues, but I can’t remember enough at the writing of this review to comment on it.)
The Master Magician
So it’s been two years, and Ceony is learning how to use her new skill she discovered at the end of the previous book. She has to keep it on the down-low, though, because it could be very dangerous if certain people knew it. There’s a dangerous criminal on the loose, and perhaps due to Ceony being headstrong, he’s after her. In addition to that, she is sent away to another Folder, Magician Prit in preparation for her testing to become a magician, to avoid favoritism from her mentor. This other Folder hates Emery for good reason, as Emery bullied him when they were boys. While Emery has grown up and matured, Prit has in some ways not, and has turned bitter and mean. He is Emery’s opposite in almost every way. While Emery embraces whimsy and creativity, Prit seems more by the book. Emery’s lessons seemed fairly informal, while Prit appears as formal and stiff as they come. Ceony gets away with far more than she should with Prit, probably due to the fact that she’s a confidant and independent woman, something he is not used to.
The end of the book is the end of main Ceony’s story, I suppose, but it still feels like there’s more to tell. (And there is! There’s another book in the series, The Plastic Magician, coming out in May! That looks like it has a new protagonist, though, but we may see Ceony along the way.) I feel like there could have been a bit more of Ceony’s story though. The books were all really short, and there was room for more development. We skip over almost two years from the second book to the third, and I feel like we could have seen some of that time. And Ceony’s sister plays a small part in the book, but it would have been nice to learn a bit more about her.
Also, why did Ceony have to have a super-memory? I feel like the story could have been almost the same without her having that ‘superpower,’ and it would have made her more relatable as a character. It plays a part in the story, but not that much, and I feel like it was a bit trop-y.
Some people are not fond of this series, but I liked it well enough. The individual books are fairly short, so they’re convenient to throw in a bag for reading on public transportation! There’s a mix of light and heavy, and mundane and excitement. I’ll be checking out the next book in the series!