The Plastic Magician (The Paper Magician Trilogy, #4) by Charlie N. Holmberg
Published by 47North on May 15th 2018
Buy on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, The Book Depository
Wall Street Journal bestselling author Charlie N. Holmberg returns to the enchanting world of The Paper Magician.
Alvie Brechenmacher has arrived in London to begin her training in Polymaking—the magical discipline of bespelling plastic. Polymaking is the newest form of magic, and in a field where there is so much left to learn, every Polymaker dreams of making the next big discovery.
Even though she is only an apprentice, Alvie is an inventor at heart, and she is determined to make as many discoveries—in as short a time frame—as she can. Luckily for her, she’s studying under the world-renowned magician Marion Praff, who is just as dedicated as Alvie is.
Alvie’s enthusiasm reinvigorates her mentor’s work, and together they create a device that could forever change Polymaking—and the world. But when a rival learns of their plans, he conspires to steal their invention and take the credit for it himself.
To thwart him, Alvie will need to think one step ahead. For in the high-stakes world of magical discovery, not everyone plays fair…
I really enjoyed revisiting the much beloved world of the Paper Magician in this triumphant sequel to the original trilogy. In the Plastic Magician, main character American-German Alvie Brechenmacher, delves into the newly discovered magic of Polymaking, the magical discipline of plastic, and finds herself across the pond in England, apprenticing with world-renowned Magician Marion Praff in what is another quirky and dear adventure. This book has everything, a marvelous heroine, romance, magic, creative world-building, action and mystery, and an all-around positive message.
I love that Alvie is a sensible slacks-wearing American, complete with an accent, face-eating glasses and untamable hair. She is clearly a genius, adding large sums in her head, but is helplessly clumsy and so devoted to her new magic that she forgets what time it is. Alvie also has a heart of gold, choosing to volunteer in a hospital and using her new magic to create a prototype plastic arm for a friend who lost her arm in a factory accident. She is truly every bit as lovable and feels just as authentic and relatable as her Paper Magician counterpart, Ceony Twill, View Spoiler » who even makes a wonderful surprise cameo or two that fans of the series will just love « Hide Spoiler.
I also adore her romance with Paper Magician, and all around cutie, Bennet. The very description of the two’s developing romance makes the reader feel butterflies! “His eyes [find] hers and he smile[s] a bright smile that made Alvie feel like a magician already or perhaps something even better.” It is purely delightful that Alvie found an Englishman who loves her for all of the things that make her Alvie, something that didn’t get her many suitors back home. He forgives her for missing their dates due to working on her Magic, doesn’t blame her for running off mid-conversation to jot down a new idea or for wanting to take apart his Benz’s engine to simply appreciate it, and genuinely cares for her just as she is. Bennet even informs her early on that he had a feeling he’d never be bored with her. I thought it was utterly adorable that he told her not to wear a skirt to his View Spoiler »graduation ceremony « Hide Spoiler because “it just [isn’t] Alvie.”
Alvie’s relationship with his sister, Ethel, the one for whom Alvie is inventing the Plastic arm prototype, is just as precious. As a reader with multiple disabilities, this scene between these two really touched me:
“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.”
This exchange demonstrates how magic touches all of the relationships in the book, but isn’t defined by it. In the magical world of this book and the others in the series, people travel by mirrors, send mail via Folded mail birds, text each other via Mimic spells, and see their imaginations come to life not on movie screens, but through Imagidomes. I love how Alvie’s growing up in America, showed the different laws traditions, and attitudes towards magic throughout different countries. For example, in England public transportation via mirrors is not allowed, but in the United States it is quite the norm. And as Alvie grew up as the daughter of the true inventor of the light bulb, she has a unique and grounded viewpoint on how technological advances may affect magic. But these are just two of the many ways author Charlie N. Holmberg builds a complex and immersive world that I would personally love to inhabit.
Though the book emphasizes that all Magicians should, “Treat [their] magic with respect and loyalty and it will do likewise. Leave this world a better place than it was when you entered it,” Alvie soon finds that not all Magicians uphold this creed. There is intense competition for new discovery, especially in the newest magic—Polymaking—leading to violence, and the stealing of ideas. I love that in the face of danger, Alvie is able to use her intelligence to stay quick on her feet, rescue herself repeatedly, and is able to put together the pieces to solve a crime even before the Police. She’s not even traumatized by her brushes with danger, but instead uses her experiences to hypothesize an entirely new field of magic, which I have a feeling we’ll be seeing a lot more of in future installments. After all she says, “It [isn’t] about the magic. It [is] about the discovery.”
And if you haven’t yet discovered the magic of the Paper Magician series, I urge you to do so at once.