Den Of Geek Book Club: The Paper Magician

Fantasy YA novel The Paper Magician is strong in ideas but less so in execution. Welcome to this month's fiction book club selection...

I wanted to like this book more than I ultimately did; there are a lot of interesting ideas in the story that I thought were really cool or novel takes on the magic genre. Unfortunately, the writing just isn’t up to par with those ideas.

Let’s start with the good. First off, I think the idea of magic being so public that it’s a major in college is a pretty cool thing, and I like the idea that seemingly anyone can choose to become a magician. Most books about magic use the idea that only “special” people have the power; here, it’s a skill that is learned, no different from any other. I also like the idea that magicians bond to one man-made object and can only do magic through that medium for the rest of their lives. It makes sense that humans could only work their power on that which they have created. It also opens up a world of creativity for how to use that one medium to do a variety of tasks. Using paper for “pretty” things makes sense, since origami is a well-known art form, but using paper for transportation and weaponry is a challenge in creativity. I like that.

I just don’t think the writing lives up to the ideas the book contains, unfortunately. It reads very much like an early work of someone who will improve with time and go on to write great stories, but for now the skill just isn’t there. The prose is clunky and full of unimportant details that we just don’t need.

I also am not fond of the romance in this book. It not only feels incredibly forced, but it’s also kind of creepy. We’re talking about a man who was legally an adult when Ceony started kindergarten. Not to mention that he’s her teacher, so there’s an inherent power imbalance from the get-go. I know the book is set in the early 1900s, but I’m reading it in 2014 and it skeeves me out, which ultimately detracted a lot from my enjoyment of the book; I read on in dread of the next time there’d be a forced hint at the romance.

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I would like to see more from this author after a few years have passed and skills have been honed. For now, I can’t say I enjoyed the book, though I did like a lot of the ideas it contained.

Aliya will be back on the 15th of January with Adventures With The Wife In Space by Neil Perryman.

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