Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Book Review - Charlie N. Holmberg's Magician trilogy

Kia Ora!

Today I have a bit of a book review/rant for you. I read The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg a couple of months ago, and then read the next two books in the trilogy. I've written up what I thought, and a few things that stood out in particular for you. A wee bit different, but something I felt needed to be said. Let me know what you think!

The Glass Magician and The Master Magician

After reading the first in this trilogy in September, I had to find out what happened in the rest of the story. These two books continue the story of Ceony Twill and Emery Thane, as she completes her apprenticeship in Folding and their love unfolds (lol I'm so punny). Once again I love the ideas that are explored (magic in the Victorian world, the place of magicians, the interaction of varying types of magicians) but I think some of the execution of the books wasn't quite right. Several plot points stand out as being immature (as in the idealistic immaturity of young teenagers who haven't experienced any kind of romantic love before), and I want to explore how a couple of them annoyed me.

Spoilers! Firstly, the way Ceony/Emery's romance is written annoys me. In the first book there is zero reciprocation from him, and she decides she is in love with him in a week or so. Although, with extenuating circumstances I'll let that one go (read book 1 to see what I mean). In The Glass Magician Ceony is pining for him, despite living in the same house, and bemoaning how she will never be his wife/mother of his children. At this point there has been little other between them than some kind gestures, and it isn't certain that Emery feels the same way, or is even aware of Ceony's feelings. In all honesty, I've read fanfiction that was more convincing, and I just don't think either of these characters have real feelings for one another, other than vague geniality. There is a very awkward kiss (during dire circumstances) but otherwise a whole lot of imaginary things going on inside Ceony's head, and her passion to save Emery's life - despite being told to stay safe and basically let the grown-ups sort out the baddies.

This brings me to the second point that annoyed me - Ceony can't simply sit down and let other people deal with dangerous and dramatic situations. Admittedly she is the main character and so should be involved simply to move the plot along, but again this appears to be immature writing where the main character is fearless, the only character who has the skills to deal with the situation (which is clearly wrong as she is surrounded by other qualified and significantly skilled and experienced magicians/law enforcement), and a headstrong refusal to listen to mentors without any real fear of consequences. It's this lack of consequences that adds a corruptive element to the plot, and this isn't emphasized in the book by the author, but it is a subversive addition to the text. There are threats galore of Ceony losing her apprenticeship, of any sort of unnamed punishment, but nothing eventuates despite her behaviour putting herself in mortal danger, leading to the deaths of others, and she simply continues as though nothing happened.

The third thing that got me rather irate occurred mostly in The Master Magician, although lack of referral to it in the first and second book make it more obvious that the author hadn't planned things out particularly well to begin with. What I'm talking about here is the introduction of strict Victorian morality, which had been glossed over and ignored prior to that, until it became a minor sub-plot. It is implied that Ceony's virtue is at stake in the third book, despite having lived with Emery (alone) for the past two years, and two books, - as apprentice and master. It becomes an issue when Ceony's sister makes some disparaging comments, and then there is a drive in the newspaper/media to pull apart opposite-sex apprenticeships. I don't have a problem with portraying Victorian morality (especially as this is the time period in which the novels are set), but I don't think it should be introduced in the third book! There was no mention of needing a chaperone in the first or second books (apart from an occasional reference when Ceony went alone on a dangerous mission), so it stands out as odd now. To make it more interesting (or rage-inducing), Ceony is removed from Emery's house, and moved to another magician's residence - where there are two single men and no other sort of female chaperone. Not the best treatment if you want to make the morality and state of a woman's virtue a part of the plot.

Now that I've gotten that off my chest, I want to say that these books aren't all bad. The action scenes are well-written, and the general plot (good magicians vs. bad magicians) is actually really interesting! The things I've discussed above are minor issues that annoy me personally, but are probably things that most people won't mind (or notice). Overall, you should check these books out, as despite these minor things that occur, the majority of the writing is great. I did enjoy some aspects of the books, and despite the rant above would recommend them. Perhaps more interesting for those without a degree in English Literature or teens, but not a complete waste of time for anyone else either.

Until next time ...

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