This is an interesting young adult series set in Victorian England. Written by Brandon Sanderson student Charlie Holmberg, the use of magic reminded me of some of his work, and it was interesting to see this unique magic system explored.

Title: The Paper Magician
Author: Charlie N. Holmberg
Narrator: Amy McFadden

The story revolves around a young magic school graduate who’s been given her first apprenticeship, but is disappointed to learn that it’s to be the most boring type of magic there is (guess…). You can no doubt guess at the setup here, with the author planning many opportunities to develop paper-based ideas for the magic system. Some of these seem more cleverer and more paper-like than others, but I give the author a lot of credit here. And she follows, as we might expect, Sanderson’s famous First Law of Magic, which requires that the rules of the magic system be defined and adhered to as promised.

These novels are VERY short, running more like the length of a novella. But they’re also very low-cost in ebook format. I think all three put together is only around 700 pages, but should come in well under 20 bucks.

Several obstacles prevented me from completely enjoying the series, some of which may be my own fault. I’m not the biggest YA fan, and some of the ones I’ve read recently (e.g. Roth’s Divergent series) have been disappointing. This series does work, but I found I had to work my way past some emotional baggage in the form of the protagonist’s silly romantic musings and constant glancing at her mentor’s hair and facial expressions.

It also ran afoul one of my primary rules of the household regarding the Hallmark channel and similar networks that my wife enjoys: Beware of women in kitchens! Fashion and cooking are pretty much my personal trigger warnings for fantasy literature, and any story that crosses that line runs the risk of a set-down (you know, setting the book down, never to pick it up again).

However, as with Novik’s Uprooted, I stuck with it. I’m still a big believer in what I tend to call “personal diversity”, or “reading outside my comfort zone”. It’s something I’ve always strived for, and I think it makes me both a better reader and has made me more thoroughly entertained over the years. I think it was worth it here.

Audio narration by Amy McFadden seemed a bit overdramatic. It struck me that it was like an obligatory thing, as if the YA nature of the book demanded that the scenery be chewed. But perhaps that was just her interpretation of the material, I don’t know. I think I might have enjoyed this one more as an ebook.

On the whole I’m calling this a “recommend” but far from perfect. A good read given the length and cost.

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