The Master Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg

The Master Magician by Charlie N. HolmbergTitle: The Master Magician
Author: Charlie N. Holmberg
Series: The Paper Magician, #3
Pages: 216
Publisher: 47North
Release Date: June 2, 2015

       “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.”

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“It’s like you have a checklist for dangerous criminals tucked into your pocket, and you won’t be satisfied until you’ve had a personal encounter with each.”

Charlie N. Holmberg’s The Master Magician is a solid conclusion to The Paper Magician series. Ceony Twill spent her school years at Tagis Praff School for the Magically Inclined hoping to become a Smelter, one who works with metals. However, due to the lack of Folders in the magical trade, after her graduation, she was assigned to Emery Thane, one of the few paper magicians. Over her apprenticeship Ceony and Emery have grown closer. Ceony has had strong feelings for her tutor ever since she saved him from a dangerous woman from his past. Though this relationship is not strictly forbidden, it is frowned upon and rumors about Ceony and Emery are beginning to swirl. Ceony is on the brink of becoming a full-fledged paper magician, but it’s difficult for her to stay focused when her ability to bond with different materials, something that should be possible, comes to the attention of a nefarious magician.

While I’ve admired Ceony’s drive and her desire to protect those she loves, her decision-making leaves a lot to be desired in this final book. I found myself frustrated with her inability to let others, who are more experienced, handle situations she wasn’t prepared to face. I understood her motivations, but not her actions, which I believe put her and those she cares about in more danger. Though I do find paper magic to be invariably charming, I did hope to explore other mediums more in depth than to just be told that Ceony had studied them in secret. I also found that her tumultuous relationship with her sister Zina lacked a firm foundation. The first two books focused heavily on Ceony’s apprenticeship and her family did not play a heavy role, so I didn’t feel very invested in their quarrel in this book and am not sure what purpose it really served.

What I like most about this series is Emery and Ceony’s relationship. Though the latter is not a full magician quite yet, they treat each other as equals. Emery’s concern for Ceony never takes on the I’m-worried-about-you-so-I-get-to-dictate-your-choices tone that I’m not particular fond of. The Master Magician wraps up this quick little series quite nicely, though I will say that I still would have liked to read more of the story from Emery’s point of view.

Rating: 4/5

★★★★

Unmade by Sarah Rees Brennan

Unmade by Sarah Rees Brennan

Title: Unmade
Author: Sarah Rees Brennan
Series: The Lynburn Legacy, #3

Sorry-in-the-Vale has come under siege, with Rob Lynburn taking control of Aurimere and demanding the town offer him a sacrifice. To defeat him, Kami has become Ash’s source. In the aftermath of battle, Jared, the boy she’d been linked to her whole life, gave himself over to Rob to save Kami’s brother and his aunt. Unwilling to accept she’s lost Jared forever, Kami will do anything to get him back. With more people succumbing to Rob’s will, Kami is more desperate than ever to save her town. When Kami discovers a way to gain more power in order defeat Rob, she must decide how much she’s willing to give up, because defeating him may cost her everything.

“She lied to herself because she did not know how she would put herself back together if she fell apart.”

Unmade is the gripping conclusion to Sarah Rees Brennan’s Lynburn Legacy series. I’ve been holding on to this book for the past year because I wasn’t quite ready to say goodbye to this amazing series. Brennan is highly skilled when it comes to writing complex characters. It’s incredibly rewarding to see how each character has evolved over the course of three books, how small characters have become an intricate part of the story, and how characters you found off-putting have become ones you can’t help but like. Kami has come a long way since the beginning pages of Unspoken, when she was just a girl with an insatiable hunger for the truth and a drive that was infectious. Sacrifice has been an important theme throughout the series, and in this final book Kami must decide what she’s willing to give up in order to save the people she loves.

Jared is another character who has undergone a lot of changes, and his character development is perhaps the most rewarding. He’s always considered himself unworthy of being loved and struggled to connect with the members of his family when he’s always felt like an outsider among them. Throughout the course of the series, Jared has leaned to care about other people beside Kami, to see the value in others, and eventually finds his own worth apart from the girl who once defined his entire world. Brennan really knows how to let secondary characters shine. The people in Kami’s life are more than placeholders, they have real fears and desires; sometimes you agree with them and sometimes you don’t, but they are all incredibly well-developed. They exist on their own apart from the protagonist and I love seeing everyone interact with one another. From the wonderful friendship between Kami and Angela to the humorous interactions between Jon Glass and Lillian Lynburn, there’s something to love about any number of combination of characters.

My only real criticism for this final book is that these characters have been through so much, they’ve had to make sacrifices and lost people they loved, and I felt they deserved more than a chapter or two of happiness. Sarah Rees Brennan has an amazing ability to make you laugh and cry in the span of a single page, to make you smile and break your heart at the same time with this final book being no exception. I’ve enjoyed Kami’s journey immensely and am looking forward to Brennan’s future projects.

Rating: 5/5

★★★★★

Untold by Sarah Rees Brennan

Untold by Sarah Rees Brennan

Title: Untold
Author: Sarah Rees Brennan
Series: The Lynburn Legacy, #2

When the Lynburn family returned to Sorry-in-the-Vale after nearly two decades of absence, amateur journalist Kami Glass saw it as an opportunity to find out just what kind of secrets her cozy little town was hiding. She never expected to discover the imaginary friend she’d been hearing in her head all her life was real and that magic runs through the veins of Sorry-in-the-Vale. Now Rob Lynburn, a powerful sorcerer, is determined to take control of the town and resurrect a system of sacrifices in order to gain more power. Kami and her friends must find a way to stop him before more blood is spilled.

“The sorcerers were gone. The field of winter-dry grass was painted with slick red blood, the ground carved with dark lines and symbols cut deep into the earth, and in the blood and symbols lay the huddled shapes of dead animals.”

I reread Unspoken, the first book in Sarah Rees Brennan’s Lynburn Legacy series, at the end of July and finally got around to picking this second book up for a reread. Untold takes all of the fun elements of Unspoken and raises the stakes. Kami Glass is still one of my favorite protagonists. She continues to surprise those who’ve underestimated just how brave, tenacious, and resourceful she can be. The relationship between the characters are constantly developing and even though I’ve already read this one, the tension and anguish felt just as fresh as the first time. Characters like Jared Lynburn, who has a lot of messy thoughts about himself and whose behavior can sometimes be self-destructive, are the ones you root for the most throughout this series. In Unspoken his entire world seemed to revolve around Kami, the one person in his life he’d been able to count on, but in Untold, he learns to trust other people and I really liked seeing his relationship with his cousin Ash grow.

Brennan has a gift for writing flawed characters and she isn’t afraid to let them make mistakes. Even the adults, who sometimes play minuscule roles or are absent altogether in YA books, are given a chance to be human. They make mistakes, they don’t always know what to do, and sometimes their fear gets the best of them. Not only do we learn more about magic and the history of the Lynburns in this sequel, but minor characters like Rusty and Holly are given larger parts. I love the fact that not all the relationships in this book are made important by their proximity to the protagonist. Everyone has their own issues with one another. They have their own arcs, which makes every character important and enjoyable to read about.

Untold manages to be hilarious, witty, and heart-breaking. I’ve been avoiding the last book in the series because I don’t want to let go of these wonderful characters, but after finishing this one, I don’t think I can wait too much longer to find out what happens.

Rating: 5/5

★★★★★

Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas

Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas

Title: Queen of Shadows
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Series: Throne of Glass, #4

Celaena Sardothien, Adarlan’s most notorious assassin turned King’s Champion, has finally accepted who she really is. Now she returns from her mission in Wendlyn, but not as an assassin, but as Aelin Galathynius, rightful Queen of Terrasen. But things are not as she left them in Rifthold. The King has taken those she loves prisoner and is hunting down the rebels who dare to stand against him. Those under his power are amassing and only Aelin stands between him and conquering the world.

“Her fingers barked in pain, digging into the brick so hard that her nails broke inside her gloves. She gritted her teeth and pulled, hauling herself onto the ledge and then through the open window.”

Sarah J. Maas’s Queen of Shadows, the fourth book in her Throne of Glass series, was painful in so many ways, there’s a good chance I went through an entire tissue box while reading. Maas’s series excels in its world-building and ability to prey emotionally on its readers with gut-wrenching stories about characters you cannot help but root for. The villains in this series come in many forms, each seemingly impossible to defeat, capable of bringing the world to its knees. With every page the King of Adarlan’s plans become more and more terrible, ambitious, and mad. The Valg are a terrifying enemy, able to feed on and possess those with magic. His army of witches, riding the impressive wyverns, are more brutal and skilled than any human soldier could ever hope to be. We are also finally introduced to the man who made eight-year-old Aelin Galathynius into the skilled assassin Celaena Sardothien. Cunning and vicious, it is Arobynn’s belief that Aelin rightfully belongs to him that had my skin crawling. Even more frightening is knowing these adversaries are nothing compared to what Maas has in store for her next books.

New characters are introduced in this fourth installment including a formal rival of Celaena’s, Lysandra, whose history with the assassin is complicated, but whom Aelin finds common ground with when it comes to their mutual hatred for the King of the Assassins. Elide, a former citizen of Terrasen, who’s been relegated to servant by her corrupt uncle, draws the attention of Manon and her story becomes closely intertwined with the Thirteen. I really enjoyed Manon’s character arc in this book. I was drawn to her in Heir of Fire and knew there was more of her character to explore. Her ruthlessness and unwavering obedience, once thought of as the most valuable qualities both in herself and others, are challenged in this book. Though it goes against everything she’s ever been taught, she learns to listen to those who have fought at her side and begins to understand that bowing to those above her in station may not be what’s best for the witch clans.

I wasn’t a fan of everything that happened in Queen of Shadows for various reasons which I will mostly not divulge because of spoilers. As I’ve said with the previous books, I’ve been hoping that Dorian would get a more compelling storyline, since I’ve felt that he hasn’t been given much to do and I’m left once again hoping this takes place in the next book. There is a gap between Heir of Fire and Queen of Shadows that we aren’t fully privy to and I would have liked to have explored what happened with Dorian and Chaol during this time. Because of this, I didn’t quite understand the raging tension between Aelin and Chaol in this installment. Instead of working together, they found ways to quarrel which was hard for me to accept given their history.

Overall, though not my favorite in the series, Queen of Shadows was full of thrilling battles, gruesome foes, and a protagonist finally coming into her own.

Rating: 4/5

★★★★