Review: The Plastic Magician

The Plastic Magician The Plastic Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

3.5 Stars

While I've read other works by Charlie Holmberg, I've somehow managed to miss reading The Paper Magician trilogy, so this book was an introduction into Holmberg's charming magical world, set largely in an alternate Edwardian era England, around 1906. Alvie Brechenmacher is a magician who wants to focus on plastics, a newer branch of magic in this world in which magicians work materials such as paper, metal, fire, among others. She is fortunate to be matched for her apprenticeship with British Magician Marion Praff, a polymaking magician with a generous nature and natural inclination for teaching. Alvie leaves her modest home in Columbus, Ohio and her German family, including her father Gunter, who worked with Thomas Edison on the light bulb, and makes her way to London and the Praff estate at Briar Hall. Alvie is a frizzy-haired, near-sighted early 20th Century nerd. And something of a tomboy, since she eschews skirts for more practical and comfortable trousers whenever possible.

This novel has a light but sweet romance element between Alvie and a paper magician's apprentice suitor named Bennet (shout out to Jane Austen?), and a mystery element with a competitor polymer magician who seems more willing to steal from Magician Praff than work on developing his own ideas. Covering approximately the first year of Alvie's apprenticeship, this novel shows promise for development into a spinoff series, with the next book finding the characters presenting at the Discovery Convention in New York in 1907. And we can hope that Alvie will be presenting about a special technique she's investigating at the end of this book. It would certainly make sense given that name, Brechenmacher, that she'd be breaking, or at least bending, some of the well-known rules of this magical world.

All in all, this was a historical steampunkish fantasy novel that I could enjoy, in spite of a basic foundation that might be too formulaic in a less skilled writer's hands. I would definitely pick up a second book about Alvie and plan to read The Paper Magician trilogy when I finish my Hugo reading this summer.

I received a Digital Review Copy of this book from 47North and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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