The Glass Magician

Once I Had A Love, And It Was A Gas
(The Glass Magician)

The Glass Magician (Charlie N. Holmberg, 2014) is the sequel to Holmberg’s novel The Paper Magician. Again starring Ceony Twill, apprentice Folder, the novel follows the cat-and-mouse chase between Ceony and a pair of powerful, evil magicians that she wronged during the course of the first adventure. As this is a sequel, the gentle reader of this review must prepare themselves: There will be unmarked spoilers for the first novel, The Paper Magician!

The story starts innocently enough. A few months after Ceony’s journey into the heart of total dreamboat Magician Emery Thane, she and her fellow apprentice and friend Delilah have been assigned to visit a paper factory. While Delilah is an apprentice glass magician – or Gaffer – the magic school considers that all apprentices should gain an understanding of how each magic-enabled material is made. So they appreciate it better or something. Go with it, they just have to both be there for the first bit of the plot. During the tour, an explosion rocks the factory. This is the beginning of Ceony’s woes, as it comes to light that blood magicians Grath and Saraj have targeted Ceony in retaliation for her permanent disabling of their comrade Lira, whom Ceony froze stiff with a mysterious fusion of blood and paper magic. But not all is as it seems…

First off, this is a better book than The Paper Magician. If only because Ceony doesn’t spend most of it running around in someone’s heart, fleeing from the villain every fifteen pages, only stopping to pull a miraculous out-of-nowhere victory at the end. This was then followed by a light slap on the wrist for, you know, chasing down a known murderer alone. In this novel, Ceony actually gets called out on this sort of behaviour, making it about 1000x better instantly. All is forgiven quickly, but at least she gets chewed out.

Also, this book actually has a plot outside of ‘learn about total dreamboat Emery Thane’. Ceony goes to the paper factory, there’s an explosion, there’s a scary meeting with the villain, there’s a relocation, there’s plans and tension and a love story that shouldn’t be there… Compared to the last novel, it’s deeper than the Mariana Trench. But like the last book, this novel is very short, clocking in at only about 200 pages. So now rather than 100 pages of Ceony wandering around a heart, it’s 100 pages of about a dozen different things happening. I think the novel could have benefited from spending more time on development of each plot point, rather than giving fairly in-depth descriptions of what the cast had for dinner.

I don’t really know why this book has a love story in it. The romantic content of the novel is composed of 95% Ceony blushing, 4% Emery showing something that could be considered affection (with his eyes),  and 1% actual love stuff. Maybe. And this book is set three months after Ceony confessed her love at the end of the first novel, which also had this pointless love story running through it, except the love interest was unconscious for literally 70% of the novel. So no progress was made for three months, and this is while Emery wasn’t suffering from a serious case of missing heart syndrome. This truly is the love story of our time. Maybe Emery’s only holding back because it would be wrong to be dating his apprentice? I mean, he’s a responsible magician with a good job. Surely he wouldn’t jeopardise his position?

Will the threat of censure and a forced retirement stop him from revealing his true feelings..?

The writing style hasn’t changed since the last novel. It’s still technically competent and pleasing to read, if very fast-paced. This isn’t a fault, I just personally prefer a little more colour and downtime. Holmberg’s style seems to involve dedicating 10-30% of the novel to sleepy idyllic times, before rapidly ramping up and not taking her foot off the accelerator. It goes from zero to explosion faster than any given Michael Bay film.

Ceony’s paper dog Fennel takes a back-seat in this escapade, with her friend Delilah replacing him as moral support and generally helpful person. Somehow maintaining a cheerful disposition even after a few months under the tutelage of the severe glass Magician Aviosky, Delilah is dragged into Ceony’s mess. She provides a much needed tertiary character, sorely missing in The Paper Magician, which focused almost entirely on Emery and Ceony with occasional meddling by Lira. She’s the sensible one, who doesn’t want to go about chasing after murderers. I can’t blame her. She’s bubbly and friendly and that’s the extent of her personality, other than serving as a counterpoint to Ceony’s reckless suicidal tendencies.

And Ceony really is suicidal. In The Paper Magician, Ceony knew that if Emery didn’t get his heart back within a couple of days, he would die. So there’s a race against time, and the senior magicians have given up all hope of retrieving the heart. Ceony takes up the quest herself. Okay, fair enough. Now we’re in The Glass Magician. Ceony has survived an encounter with Grath, and now knows that people are out to kill her. The council of magicians take deliberations over how to proceed, but Ceony is impatient. On day one of the council, Ceony enlists Delilah and decides to deal with Grath and Saraj herself. Why? There’s a room full of the England’s best Excisioner hunters, gathered to figure out how to best deal with Grath and protect Ceony, but for some reason she thinks she could do a better job herself. It beggars belief. To be fair, she’s not the only person in the novel to make a mistake.

(Big spoilers) In fact, we only need to look as far as our villains...

So we have the story of a woman who has a terrible grasp on the severity of her situation, who willingly endangers her friends because she thinks she has a handle on things. If you read the novel as a critique on the arrogant attitude of the young and educated, you’ll probably come away from it feeling less angry. Maybe that’s the point. If you ignore the poor decisions that every character keeps making, the plot is good, but the book has to tell you just how earth-shattering the events are, because the reader is not given enough time to become familiar with how things are supposed to be.

If you enjoyed the first novel, you’ll like this one too. Actually, you’ll probably enjoy it more, because I’d say it’s an evolution of the original. There’s more to it, there’s more characters, it’s that much deeper. But, please, don’t read it for the romance. It didn’t even occur to me that romance was one of the themes of the original, and it’s still not a strong point here. Then again, who wouldn’t fall for those emerald green eyes? Such a dreamboat.

– Matthew

Liked the post? Why not share it?
Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditEmail this to someoneBuffer this page