“Ethel took her hand. ‘You’re a good friend Alvie. Even without all the magic.’ Alvie squeezed back. ’You are too, Ethel. Even without the arm.’ The older woman’s eyes watered just a bit. ‘I think that, today that’s something I needed to hear’.”
TITLE & AUTHOR: The Plastic Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg
SERIES: The Paper Magician, #4 (spin-off)
GENRE: Fantasy/YA/Romance/Historical Fiction
PUBLISHED : May 15th 2018, by 47North
MY RATING: 3.5/5
A fun and short novel expanding the old universe
The Plastic Magician is the fourth novel in Holmberg’s The Paper Magician series, but it features different main characters and can be read as a standalone. So, you don’t need to read the trilogy, but I’d still recommend doing so, simply because the trilogy serves as a good introduction to this magical world, and because there’s more magic. The Plastic Magician is more about science.
If you’ve already read The Paper Magician trilogy, then you know what to expect – we are again thrown into the magical world at the turn of the century, where one can become a magician by bonding to a man-made material like paper, plastic, glass, etc. After the magical school, the students become apprentices under famous magicians, where they train for several years for their final exam which will make them magicians themselves. This time the heroine is Alvie Brechenmacher who comes from America to London to train as a Polymaker (plastic magician), which is not really as boring as it sounds. The original trilogy was centered on paper and glass magicians which is far more magical, as you can animate origami birds/dogs to life, or travel/communicate through mirrors, but it seems that plastics have quite a few magical uses.
This time we have a more refined plot, an interesting villain with a realistic mastermind plan, and a less whiny Mary Sue, who is quite determined not to blush in awkward situations, but can’t help it really, because she’s a woman. She is also quite determined to wear pants in early 1900s, because I’m-not-your-typical-Mary-Sue. So there are faults in this one too, yes, but you can clearly see Holmberg is getting better at writing, she just needs to work on her characters more.
What I liked the most, except a better lead character, was that there was some science involved. The main plot is about Alvie’s mentor, Magician Praff, who will be training her for several years, preparing for a scientific convention. He had an extremely successful invention and won several years ago, so now he naturally feels the need to outdo himself and create something even better. Made from plastics of course. Unexpectedly, his young student will help him on the way, but there are many scientists still bitter and jealous because of his success and some will stop at nothing to undermine his effort.
Other than Alvie and Mg. Praff, there are several side characters I really liked. Holmberg already proved she can create interesting characters, and here we can see her crafting better villains, but I think she still needs to get rid of Mary-Sues and create better heroines.
For those of you who loved the original trilogy, there are of course some surprises in store, and some returning characters.
I really enjoyed this book, and far more than the original trilogy, and I do hope there will be more. The magical system is fresh, interesting and fun, the novel is a quick and light read, and Charlie Holmberg is definitely getting better at writing, although I haven’t yet dared to try her other novels, outside of this universe. If you’re looking for a quick and fun magical read, then this is it.