Monday, 8 June 2015

Review: The Master Magician by Charlie N Holmberg

Publication Date: June 2nd 2015
Publisher: 47 North

Throughout her studies, Ceony Twill has harbored a secret, one she’s kept from even her mentor, Emery Thane. She’s discovered how to practice forms of magic other than her own — an ability long thought impossible.
While all seems set for Ceony to complete her apprenticeship and pass her upcoming final magician’s exam, life quickly becomes complicated. To avoid favoritism, Emery sends her to another paper magician for testing, a Folder who despises Emery and cares even less for his apprentice. To make matters worse, a murderous criminal from Ceony’s past escapes imprisonment. Now she must track the power-hungry convict across England before he can take his revenge. With her life and loved ones hanging in the balance, Ceony must face a criminal who wields the one magic that she does not, and it may prove more powerful than all her skills combined.

Whilst the first two books in the Magician trilogy had their problems, I really enjoyed reading them. The magic was fresh and interesting and I loved getting lost in the world the books offered up. So I was curious and a little bit excited to see how the final installment brought the story to a close.

The close to the series brought with it everything I’d loved about the first two novels (and some of the things I didn’t) as well as a whole heap more. A lovely romance that had truly blossomed and some fantastic magic. This is a series that I have loved escaping into. The stories, despite the action and peril, have always felt quiet and idyllic and sometimes that is exactly the sort of story that I need to while away a sunny afternoon.

There were still a few frustrations: the relationship between Ceony and Emery being the first. I did enjoy their interactions and relationship much more than in the first two books as Ceony came across as a much more mature character (as I’ll talk about in a moment) and even got a little mushy at points! However in the first two books I found their relationship decidedly squicky. Their age gap has always felt a little too big and Ceony a little too much like a besotted teen. As a result the teacher/pupil relationship and her feelings make for some quite uncomfortable reading at points. However she did come across as infinitely more mature in this final installment and Emery a lot more expressive in his own feelings so it felt much more equal and less like a one sided infatuation.

The language is stuffed full of modern Americanisms, and if you’re going to set a book in turn of the century London that really frustrates me. Really basic things like Mom instead of Mother – I’m picky about my language! So whilst I was expecting the language to be like that after the first two books, it still really irritated me, particularly as it would have been such a simple fix and would have had such an impact on the book.

The final problem was pacing. The first two books felt like light, quick reads and as a result the speed with which I worked through the story was not a problem. This book however felt like it had more to it – or should have more to it, and I was left feeling a little wanting. I wanted the story to take its time. I wanted to see more time devoted to the magician’s test and to really get lost in this world. There was so much on offer with it and I wanted a bit more rather than the same light and quick read that I enjoyed with the first two. However that was really a personal preference thing and I know some people will enjoy that this book maintains the precedents set by the first two.

However despite those frustrations I really enjoyed coming back to this series and having the stories all tied up. The magic has always been the biggest draw for me as it is so imaginative and brilliantly conceived, so I particularly loved getting to see a little more of the different types of magic as Ceony experimented. It’s something I would love to see translated to screen actually as it’s such an innovative and brilliant idea for magic and it would be incredible to see if come to life.

Whilst I struggled with the relationship between Ceony and Emery in the first two books it really felt like it began to take shape fully in this book and I loved seeing them together and how they worked together. I would’ve loved more time devoted to that and exploring that relationship, but I felt much more comfortable with them as a romantic pairing than I have done in the past.

Now that I’d grown comfortable with the characters, the magic and the world, I really loved being given the chance to settle back into it and explore a little further with Ceony. It was like pulling on a much loved jumper and whilst I would have loved more time to be spent over the story, the couple of hours spent reading this were definitely enjoyable. I found myself feeling nostalgic for the cottage and Fennel long after I’d finished reading. It is definitely not a perfect series for me, as I’ve explained, but it is definitely one that I’ve enjoyed reading and one that I will most certainly return to again in the future. I’m looking forward to seeing what Charlie writes next!

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