I thought Charlie Holmberg's debut novel, The Paper Magician, was quite charming. I'm a sucker for historical fantasy (I adore Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer's Sorcery and Cecilia), and I was hoping this would be in the same vein. To my delight, it was.
When the story begins, Ceony Twill is less than thrilled to apprentice to a Paper Magician. In her world, once magicians have bonded to a material, they are bonded to it forever. She'd studied hard in school and hoped for something more impressive, like metal magic. But there aren't enough paper magicians, so paper it is.
But Magister Thane is nothing like what she expected--and Ceony discovers unexpected wonder in Paper Magic, where complicated folds of paper bring things to life. I thought Holmberg was particularly successful in setting up the magic here--I wanted to try paper magic myself!
When a dark secret from Thane's past shows up in the form of an Excisioner, whose dark magic uses the material of the human body, and rips Thane's heart from him, Ceony has to use her limited skills with paper magic to try and save him.
The magic system here was fun, and Ceony herself was delightful. I liked that she was smart, independent, and knew what she wanted out of life. I wasn't sure about the speed at which the romance here developed, but I could see why Ceony found Thane appealing and intriguing. And I loved that Ceony had such limited resources for saving Thane--it made the stakes that much higher. So often in fantasy the heroine has this incredible power, but Ceony didn't have any of that. She was just an ordinary magician who barely had the training she needed to animate paper. It was refreshing.
I'll be interested to see where Holmberg takes the story in the sequel, The Glass Magician.