Friday, March 27, 2015

The Cephalopod Coffeehouse - The Paper Magician

Today I bring you another edition of the Cephalopod Coffeehouse. The idea is simple: on the last Friday of each month, post about the best book you've finished over the past month while visiting other bloggers doing the same.  In this way, we'll all have the opportunity to share our thoughts with other enthusiastic readers. 

This month I read The Paper Magician, which I really wanted to like - a lot! It has a gorgeous cover (it reminded me of the The Night Circus) and the blurb sounded exactly like something I would love:

Ceony Twill arrives at the cottage of Magician Emery Thane with a broken heart. Having graduated at the top of her class from the Tagis Praff School for the Magically Inclined, Ceony is assigned an apprenticeship in paper magic despite her dreams of bespelling metal. And once she’s bonded to paper, that will be her only magic…forever.

Yet the spells Ceony learns under the strange yet kind Thane turn out to be more marvelous than she could have ever imagined—animating paper creatures, bringing stories to life via ghostly images, even reading fortunes. But as she discovers these wonders, Ceony also learns of the extraordinary dangers of forbidden magic.

An Excisioner—a practitioner of dark, flesh magic—invades the cottage and rips Thane’s heart from his chest. To save her teacher’s life, Ceony must face the evil magician and embark on an unbelievable adventure that will take her into the chambers of Thane’s still-beating heart—and reveal the very soul of the man.

From the imaginative mind of debut author Charlie N. Holmberg, The Paper Magician is an extraordinary adventure both dark and whimsical that will delight readers of all ages.

Short-Listed for the 2015 ALA Fantasy Reading List 

I wish I had liked this more. I admit I was hoping for something akin to The Night Circus, which I adored. Unfortunately, The Paper Magician didn't quite measure up. But before I tell you why, let me tell what I did like. I loved the magic aspect of the story. The idea that one can bond to a particular thing and imbue magic into it was both unique and fascinating. The descriptions of birds and dogs and even a skeleton made of paper and brought to life were lovely and magical. Ceony thinks paper magic isn't very important when she first arrives, but she soon discovers the amazing things a magician can do with paper - like making snow flakes that sparkle and float and even feel cold, just like real snowflakes.

The problem for me was the characters. There was a lot of back story for the main characters, Ceony (and someone, please tell me how to pronounce her name) and Thane, which, had I known, might have made me connect with them more. I knew there was something dark in their pasts, but because I didn't find out until late in the story, I had a hard time caring much for either one of them. This made it hard for me to believe that Ceony would risk everything for her teacher/master, Magician Thane. I know a lot of back story is a no-no, but I would have liked more of it. I think I would've liked this book a lot better.

Anyway. I feel sad I didn't love this book. *sigh*


  1. The advantage of being a reader and writer is that you can learn from the mistakes of other books! Love the idea of paper magic so I would read this, just for that. I guess See-oh-nee as a pronunciation :-)

  2. If you can't connect with the characters, it won't matter how great the story or how well written.

  3. Like you I loved The Night Circus, and was getting excited about this book. Character matters a lot to me though. I don't have to like them, I certainly don't have to approve of what they do, but I shouldn't wonder why they are doing it.
    Thank you for this - if I do read it (quite possible) I will read with reservations.

  4. I love the name Emery Thane. I'm struggling with kind of the same thing in what I'm writing. There is a backstory, but I don't want to inundate the reader with it. But how much do I tell and how much do I hold back? It's something to think about.

  5. That's interesting to note about the insertion of backstory and how it affected your relationship with the characters. Tricky figuring out the right balance on that sometimes.

  6. Perhaps the fault is in depending too much on the back story to convey the current narrative. I like back story in general but I think it's most meaningful when I already have other reasons to care about a character and believe in his/her motivations.

  7. Sometimes you just don't or can't like a book or story. It happens.
    Connecting with character is what the story has to do, get you hooked.

    cheers, parsnip

  8. It's sad that the book wasn't better, but I'd like to go to a school for the magically inclined. I feel quite certain I am magically inclined, and I don't know why I've never received my letter from Hogwarts. I suppose I'm too old now. The Hurricane will get to to go, just like with everything else, and if I'm very fortunate she might allow me to visit once. Just once.


  9. Here's hoping debut author Charlie Holmberg's skills continue to develop.

  10. Dontcha HATE it when a book doesn't live up to your expectations? That's how I felt about "The Goldfinch." I really wanted to love it, but alas, it just wasn't meant to be.

  11. Oh, that's so hard when a book doesn't live up to expectations, especially when it has so many good elements - I mean, that's some pretty cool world-building with the magic system! But, I had a similar experience with a "local history" book that was touted to me for months. I still liked Boys in the Boat - a novel about a rowing team from the University of Washington who took Olympic Gold in the 1930s - but I didn't like it as much as I had hoped. In that case, there was a bit too much expository description of general places (three paragraphs on the "lawn" at UW).
    Hopefully, your April read(s) are awesome! Have a great weekend, Marcy!

  12. I agree with you about backstory. It's critical to insert the backstory in little bits in the first 3rd of the book. Establishing the characters' motivations and goals has to be done ASAP if you want the reader to understand and be sympathetic to them.

  13. I do love the cover. It seems like it would be a magical story. Too bad it was a disappointment.

  14. Sounds like a fascinating premise - but I guess it was a bit hit & miss with the timing of dropped backstory hints!

    Great cover though, and I'm tempted to still read it from your description.

  15. Thanks for sharing this one. I know it's hard when a book disappoints, but that makes us appreciate the winners even more!
    Sorry I didn't comment sooner--blogspot hates iPads (won't let me forward my comments!!) and my laptop was incommunicado until today.


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