Book Review: The Plastic Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg

BookReviewThePlasticMagician

I’ve been a fan of Holmberg’s work and her magical world ever since The Paper Magician trilogy, so I was beyond excited when I learnt a new book, based in the same world as Ceony and Emery, was coming out.

The Plastic Magician is set a few years after the events of The Paper Magician trilogy and follows a new apprentice, American magician-in-training Alvie Brechenmacher, who travels to England to learn Polymaking, the magic of plastic manipulation. Alvie is a brilliant-minded, kind-natured, highly-motivated character, one readers could empathise with and support from the beginning, so when she embarks on a challenge that could revolutionise Polymaking, I couldn’t wait to follow her journey

Contains spoilers, duh.

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Eh, I mean, I liked this book enough. But it pales significantly to the Paper Magician trilogy, mainly because nothing much seems to be at stake and the plot is straighter than a ruler. Paper Magician was better, more action-packed, with deeper characters, more fun, and more twists.

Alvie is quite a quirky character with obsessive-compulsive tendencies. She likes to count numbers. She likes to know the layout and makings of things and is organised and hyper-focused to a fault — she is an excellent scientist and creator. I found her quite a unique character and fun to watch.

The other characters, though, are pretty one-dimensional. Ezzell comes across as a bad guy from the start, does dodgy suspicious stuff, is caught being bad, turns out is the bad guy.

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Praff is affable workaholic without another side to him. I actually really wanted him to turn out to be the Big Bad and Ezzell was telling the truth, in his unpleasant, greasy, dodgy way. I’d have liked Praff to have some negative qualities that clashes with Alvie or an ulterior side that is darker and more menacing than just being a bit ditzy and absent-minded.

The supportive characters are likable but quite unremarkable. I’d have liked for the sister or hot boyfriend to have aided in Alvie’s success rather than be faceless spectators. I would have liked to see a twist in the plot somewhere. Maybe it was the butler that was the Big Bad. or hot guy sabotages Alvie at the behest of his tutor.

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And, yeah, the plot. Like I said, straighter than a ruler. An unlocked garage means the car is sabotaged. The bad guy acts suspiciously bad. Alvie is caught by the Big Bad, escapes, proves Ezzell a liar. She doesn’t suffer any big losses or sacrifices anything to achieve her goals. There aren’t any major game changers, betrayals, or stuff at stake aside from being able to present their patented breakthrough.

The climax was also short. Alvie’s sudden ability to bend metal was unexpected but unexplained, like some bad deux ex machina. How could she do this and how was this not remotely mentioned before? It leaves me with more (dissatisfied) questions than answers.

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And the magic… paper magic was quite special and unique, in my view. But plastic is so plain, so unmagical. You say words of the English language and eventually, something moves. At least fold has lots of folding techniques and styles. Polymaking is just trialing English words. What about non-English Polymakers?

One thing I did love: the Ceony and Emery cameo. They’re just so cute.

Verdict: 3 stars. It would have been 2, but it got an extra star because I loved Paper Magician.

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