open the pages, read the words, savor the magic
This is the sequel to The Paper Magician. Before reading this book, it’s better that you read the first one, otherwise the story won’t make much sense.
After being disappointed by the lack of something… well, the lack of something – whatever that was – in the first book (read the first review), I didn’t have high expectations for this second book in Charlie N. Holmberg’s magician saga. It was a good idea to keep expectations low (or non-existent) because The Glass Magician turns out to be an even bigger disappointment compared to the first.
In this second part, Ceony Twill continues her apprenticeship with Magician Emery Thane. The story starts peacefully enough with Ceony celebrating her birthday with her family. But as she then visits a paper mill, with a group of other students including her friend Delilah Berget (apprentice to Magician Aviosky), to further her knowledge as a Folder – a paper magician – the nefarious plot literally explodes into action. The paper mill came under attack, with an Excisioner suspected to be behind it. This put Ceony’s life – who was already in danger from being pursued by her previous enemy Lira’s associate – in even more danger.
True enough, Ceony soon met the man who was pursuing her to find out what she’d done with Lira. The man’s name was Grath Cobalt and he wanted to know how and why Ceony managed to freeze Lira. We know she did it by writing on a piece of paper after fighting her and somehow getting some of Lira’s blood on her, but Grath didn’t think this kind of magic was possible. After threatening Ceony’s life with the promise of flesh-tearing pain, Grath chased her all over town… sending her straight to the arms of her teacher.
Which seemed to be exactly what Ceony wanted. She wanted Emery Thane, as her lover, her partner, her everything. And she couldn’t even wait until their lives were safe from the threat of not just Grath but also another Excisioner – Saraj Prendi – to examine her feelings. Since she’d already ‘traveled’ around the inside of Emery’s heart (read: The Paper Magician), she thought it wouldn’t take long for Emery to confess his feelings for him. So when he didn’t, and even seemingly resolved to keep her at arm’s length, she became heartbroken… and turned to reckless things. Like pursuing the bloody Excisioners on her own.
I wish I could say that I understood how she felt. She’s pining and she’s hurting because he won’t give her an answer… this is so sad, right? No. Not for me anyway. Mostly I’m just concerned as to why she let herself wallow like that. It’s so frustrating to see someone made out to be smart and independent, who started the story with ambitions to finish her studies quickly so she could become a competent magician, acting like a lovesick teenager who simply can’t use her brain. Oh, the author wrote that she did – because her heroine could never be anything less than perfect – but Ceony’s attitude lacked believability all around.
My patience wanes further when Ceony and Grath started to dance around each other. Ceony found out Grath’s ‘secret’ (clue: look at the title of this book) and she enlisted Delilah’s help (because Delilah Grath share a material) and went on a merry chase around the world. Through mirrors, of course. And this was cool, of course, except it felt like it was over very quickly and we were back to seeing Ceony and Emery acting like star-crossed lovers.
Same as the first book, The Glass Magician suffered from the author’s impatience to present a solid and credible plot. In the previous book, I thought Ceony fell in love with Emery too quickly and that made it hard for me to believe in their feelings. I had hoped that their relationship would develop in a more organic way but instead Holmberg didn’t care about constructing a path to a healthy and happy relationship. But it’s not only that! Whereas there was still a spark of brilliance in The Paper Magician with regards to its magical aspects – and the novelty of learning how a person could travel inside another human being’s heart – The Glass Magician was more uneven in its storytelling in all aspects. Putting aside the incomprehensible romance, the action was still dull and the magic mundane. It felt like a tired old routine, with no freshness or originality whatsoever.
What really galled me, however, was how ill-used Delilah was. She was ever ‘the sidekick’, giving fodder to Ceony’s purpose, without getting a chance to contribute to the story other than to accessorize the pages with her magic (which she performed for Ceony’s sake) and her twittering airheadedness (which served no purpose at all). When she appeared, I thought, “Ah, here’s a chance for Ceony to develop a meaningful relationship with someone. Friendship between two like-minded young women like this would be quite lovely to read.” Whatever friendship there was, however, was quickly nipped in the bud because Holmberg was more concerned with the case of the Excisioners and the yet again unbelievable romance between the heroine and the man of her dreams.
And if I thought adding Emery’s voice to the narrative would improve the story, I have now been proven wrong. Emery got his very own chapter in this story, told from his point of view. It was jarring, to say the least, and the chapter felt out of place in a book that’s been steadily told from Ceony’s point of view. He didn’t tell us anything new; his chapter was just to give us a depiction of what happened ‘while Ceony was sleeping’, so to speak. In terms of emotion, it didn’t evoke anything but mild interest on my part. Whatever he had to say, it didn’t change how I felt about the ridiculousness of his and Ceony’s relationship. In the end, it was just another underwhelming chapter in the midst of a straightforward, boring story.
I don’t know what to expect from the next book. I guess I don’t expect anything. I wish I had more positive things to say about this book, but as it is, I’m just numb and indifferent to whatever else might be happening in this magicians’ universe.