The Glass Magician is the second book in Charlie Holmberg’s Paper Magician Series. Now that she’s introduced us to the world and characters of the series, she is able to deepen the storylines, the relationships and the characters in this sequel. The relationship between Ceony Twill and Emery Thane becomes less surreal as it was in the trip down his heart. It’s heating up and a bit complicated (she’s still his apprentice). The Excisioners and their cohorts are after Ceony to both make her free Lira and gain the power she has to work such magic. So here we have a love that cannot (yet) be, multiple assailants tracking down Ceony with a former schoolmate and schoolmaster mixing up in the fray. Good times had by all!
Breakdown of The Glass Magician Review:
- What I Love About The Glass Magician
- What I’m Less Fond of in The Glass Magician
- Some Follow-Up with SPOILERS
Ms. Holmberg doesn’t merely continue the story but enriches the characters by continuing to reveal more background through the story and dialog. She also complicates the relationships a bit more. I’ve already remarked on Emery’s and Ceony’s relationship but she’s no longer just out of school. She’s on the cusp of being a magician herself. While she’s still under the care of the school and the watchful eye of Patrice Aviosky, it’s a more independent relationship. She reconnects with a friend from school, Delilah, who is Mg. Aviosky’s apprentice. We even have a brief glimpse into Ceony’s family. Finally, there are the bad guys – Grath Cobalt, the ringleader of the group with whom Lira worked and Saraj Prendi, a madman Excisioner. They are hunting her down and for a pretty good chunk of the short novel, she’s on the run. This leads to a bit of cat-and-mouse.
Ms. Holmberg presents some conundrums for the reader; on the one hand, Ceony is smart, intelligent and resourceful, yet on the other hand, she seems to make a series of unwise decisions and to execute those decisions in unwise ways. I think this one can be (mostly) solved. Ceony has convinced herself that she’s responsible for bringing the trouble of these two men, Grath & Saraj, on London since they’re after her. Consequently, she thinks she needs to resolve matters. Moreover, since she knows the adults won’t let her do so, she must rely mainly on herself.. She’s doesn’t want to put others at risk. This is a fairly satisfying explanation. A more difficult challenge are the times when she seems unable to quickly respond to danger in one scene and responds brilliantly in another. While a full explanation will need to wait for the spoiler section (and, hence, off limits to those who have yet to read the book), I’ll simply say at a generic level that we humans are not rational automaton; our performance is mixed. Ceony bears this out.
Finally, one slightly larger challenge to the reader’s credulity is the inability of seasoned Criminal Affairs magicians as well as those magicians on the Criminal Affairs Cabinet to manage the bad guys as effectively as apprentices do. While outwitting the police has been key to novels since Sherlock Holmes, I think this could be handled better in the series. However, one mitigating factor is that Excisioners will use methods not available to others.
So while The Glass Magician doesn’t match the sheer creativity of The Paper Magician with its in-a-heart scene nor are Grath or Saraj as interesting as Lira, it also moves the story in deepening and interesting ways. Grath had some interesting tricks, quirks, and intelligence while the feral Saraj has the potential for being interesting but didn’t play a large enough role to be so in this book.
- The deepening complexity in Emery’s & Ceony’s relationship and that they’re both a bit shy about it.
- Ceony’s mixed brilliance and quick thinking mixed with her blindness and inability to respond
- The deepening unraveling of Ms. Holmberg’s world.
- Ceony and Delilah’s friendship
- Some surprisingly candid moments between the characters
- Some clever twists and battles.
- Ceony’s mixed brilliance and quick thinking mixed with her blindness and inability to respond (it’s a love/hate thing)
- The surprisingly candid moments didn’t go very far
- The seeming incompetence of the adults intermixed with moments of brilliance.
As is my typical practice, I went between the Kindle and Audible versions of the book. Amy McFadden‘s excellent narration added to the overall joy of reading the book. I thought her Ceony spot-on, Emery’s great as always and she did a nice bit with the gruffness of Grath. Saraj’s accent was nicely done as well. While the beginning was a little breathy, overall the pacing was great. In my review of The Paper Magician, I fussed a bit that Ceony seemed to move from an Etonian English to more common accent. There was no alternating in this performance. Her narration is consistent within itself and the character. I’m delighted with her narration and hope she continues with the series.
So, I argued that Ceony shows moments of daft failure and brilliance. An example of the daft bit is her inability to shoot Grath with her “paper” gun. She let’s him talk and move to the point that he interferes with her ability to shoot. “Well, Joe, she’s smart but not a fast thinker.” This is a girl who, in the agony of a thousand cuts, breaks her material tie and binds herself to glass and wields her new power to save the day. She ought to be able to pull the trigger. While we’re a flawed and not always consistent, this flip-flop seems to stretch credulity. The adults can’t keep their charges safe let alone take down the criminals (until the end). I get that they’re hard to take down, but letting Ceony go back to Mg. Aviosky’s house as a safe haven only to find Delilah and she trussed up is a bit much. That just seemed like a pretty big failure to guard one of the principal’s homes, let along the one in which would reside the object of the bad guy’s search. They’re able to track Saraj but not prevent Grath for taking over the home?
OK, I’m done with the fussy part. I really did enjoy the book and look forward to the other(s) in the series. I love the world, the people and plots. I would like to see some radical moves like in the first book, but I loved this one as well. Definitely a solid four star read.