“The Master Magician” is the last book in the “Paper Magician Trilogy”, though there are some hints that there may be a fourth book one day, and it’ll just continue on and on… Unless some things change, I don’t know if I’d stick around for a 4th book. Holmberg wrapped up everything pretty neatly with this last book, and never addressed certain issues that lingered from the first book, so I don’t think those will ever be addressed or fixed. Like how everyone isn’t a magician if it’s just as simple as learning about it, like the book implies. The series started off as this cute, whimsical world that I was 100% on board for, but the whimsy gradually faded book by book, until it left me a little ambivalent, which makes me sad!
Much like book two, Ceony is the cause of all the drama. Despite her being woefully inept to deal with the blood magicians, due to the new skill she learned at the end of book two to switch the material she was bonded to, she believes she can handle anyone, and any situation that comes her way. I wanted to like her courage, but honestly, it annoyed me because she’s just so arrogant about it, which didn’t make her a heroine I enjoyed rooting for. If Ceony had done the smart thing though, the action part of the book would have been missing. I just wish Holmberg had found another way to bring the standoff with the blood magician about that left me prouder of Ceony. Regardless, the conflict in this book with the blood mages didn’t feel as big as the first book, so I questioned why this was the action conflict that we focused on rather than introducing us to something new that would have shed more light on Ceony’s world. It was a missed opportunity in my opinion, but not the end of the world.
Given Ceony’s unique ability for changing the magic she is bonded to, I thought the focus of this book would be different. That was such a monumental discovery at the end of the second book that I thought we’d see what that knowledge would do to Ceony, how it would change her world, or what would happen if that knowledge found its way into the wrong hands. But that just never happened. This fascinating concept is just used as a secondary device alongside the few new characters we meet that it felt like such a waste. It was this bright, new, shiny object, and I never felt it got the attention, or the exploration, it deserved.
The one thing that really saves this book and the series as a whole, is Emery. He is a delight and I really enjoy his relationship with Ceony and how it grows and develops. You have to ignore the cliché of the professor and student relationship, and the uncomfortable decade age difference between them (Emery doesn’t feel much older than Ceony, so that helps), and the sweetness of their love for one another is pretty cute. Plus Emery is a doll, so there’s that. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to really make me love this last book, and because the story felt a bit lackluster compared to where the series starts, I can only give it a 3 star, and will wait and see what another book in this series (if there is one) looks like before I revisit this world again.
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