Rating: 4 Star
Synopsis via Goodreads:
Ceony Twill arrives at the cottage of Magician Emery Thane with a broken heart. Having graduated at the top of her class from the Tagis Praff School for the Magically Inclined, Ceony is assigned an apprenticeship in paper magic despite her dreams of bespelling metal. And once she’s bonded to paper, that will be her only magic… forever.
Yet the spells Ceony learns under the strange yet kind Thane turn out to be more marvelous than she could have ever imagined — animating paper creatures, bringing stories to life via ghostly images, even reading fortunes. But as she discovers these wonders, Ceony also learns of the extraordinary dangers of forbidden magic.
An Excisioner — a practitioner of dark, flesh magic — invades the cottage and rips Thane’s heart from his chest. To save her teacher’s life, Ceony must face the evil magician and embark on an unbelievable adventure that will take her into the chambers of Thane’s still-beating heart—and reveal the very soul of the man.
This was lovely. When I first heard about this through Goodreads, I was so excited. This kind of theme is right up my alley. But then I read some other poor reviews, and I lost some hope in it.
But, oh, this is one of those magical times (no pun intended) when I disagree with everyone else who ever said a word against this book, because I adored it. Absolutely adored it, loved it, craved it, devoured it, etc, etc, . . .
I loved Ceony (cool name, right?). She was just plan awesome, who, yeah, at the beginning was a little bit of a brat, but got over herself within a chapter. To be fair, she had reason to be a bit of a brat, because how the heck would anyone feel when they had their hope set on becoming a metal magician and went to this overpriced, extremely difficult school to be able to do just that, and even have the highest marks in her class, and then be told her choice was being taken away and she was being assigned to become a paper magician. And if she doesn’t want to become a paper magician, well then too bad, because it’s either that or no magic for her. And once she’s bonded to paper, she will never be able to bond to any other kind of magic, steel or otherwise.
So, yeah, I think her being a little bratty at the beginning is fair. And she gets over it quite quick, with the reasoning that she still just wants to learn all about magic, paper or otherwise. This has been her dream, and she’s not giving it up so easily.
Her trainer, Mg. Thane, is also kind of . . . crooked. He’s likely one tablespoon away from crazy, but in the best way. And Ceony kind of takes over his home, cooking for him, making sure he doesn’t stay huddled away in his office forever. She reminds him to be human, and in exchange, he teaches her how to read words on a page and quite literally make the story come alive, to be able to fold a paper frog and make it come to life, and to tell someone’s future through paper.
Paper magic isn’t all that bad.
But then Mg. Thane is almost killed, and Ceony basically says, Screw that, and goes to retrieve his heart.
And that isn’t some metaphor for his love or whatever – she literally has to go retrieve his heart before the paper heart she made for him wears out.
Excisioners – blood magicians – are killers. Their magic literally relies on the death of others, and that’s exactly who Ceony has to go and retrieve Mg. Thane’s heart from. Go figure.
Not only that, but the Excisioner who stole Mg. Thane’s heart is his ex-wife. And she’s more than a little mad.
And so Ceony quite literally gets sucked into Mg. Thane’s heart and has to navigate through all his fears, dreams, desires, etc., while watching his past memories and hopes and dreams playing out as his ex-wife follows her, trying to kill her before she makes it to the end.
“Remember that you are much different now than you were an hour ago, Ceony. Before you merely read about magic; now you have it. Denying it won’t make you return to ordinary.”
Add into that that parts of Mg. Thane’s heart are very dark, and there may be parts of him that try to stop Ceony, to play on all her worst fears and desires because she is stuck in the misery part of his heart, and misery loves nothing more than company.
I felt like I was fangirling the whole time I was reading this. It was just so adorable at parts, because Ceony is so bold and Mg. Thane is so crazy and insane and too quirky for his own good (undoubtedly a side-effect of living too long by himself in a house literally crammed full of paper objects and animals which come alive at a whim . . . and also having an insane ex-wife too, probably).
“Perhaps the man wasn’t so mad after all. Or maybe it’s a madness that I can learn to appreciate.”
Some might say this has a bit of insta-love in it, but I disagree. While a part of my mind was saying that the romance was processing a little too quickly for my taste, at the same time I felt like I completely understood where it was coming from and how it happened. It didn’t feel over embellished or ridiculous. It kind of felt like a Pride and Prejudice kind of love or a Jane Eyre kind of romance.