Review: The Master Magician

The Master Magician

I remember being disappointed in The Paper Magician. It had come with a strong recommendation and I had great expectations for it, expectations that I felt were largely left unfulfilled. I swore I wouldn’t read the next book in the series but then I read Followed by Frost, which I enjoyed, and I thought I would give the author another chance. Then I read the Glass Magician and had a lukewarm response to it. I liked the concept but thought the world-building and characters were lacking. So, I had no intentions of ever reading this one and, wouldn’t you know it, it went on sale. If we’ve learned nothing else from these reviews, I can’t resist a good sale. Besides, I hate loose ends and I had already read the first two books in the series, I had to see where it went.

This book comes in at the end of Ceony’s apprenticeship. She is preparing to test for her magicianship and, to that end, she is sent to live with her teacher’s rival. This opened up all kinds of possibilities for conflict, but just as it was winding up for a big problem, it just peters out. In fact, that’s the problem with the entire book. The author is not willing to torture her hero nearly enough. Things go wrong, she faces up to them, the problem goes away. She NEVER fails! It’s hard to root for someone who has such an easy time of it. Even when she doesn’t get what she wants right away, she’s never really facing the danger or push-back that the story calls for. The second book did a better job of putting her in danger and at risk than this one does. The crises should build to a crescendo but they just kind of fizzle out.

I have to say that I’m a little, maybe even a lot, bothered by the teacher/apprentice basis for a romance. It never felt quite right to me. The author tries to overcome resistance to the idea by having the apprentice be the one who pushes for the relationship but there is still an odd dynamic when you have a romance develop with such a big power differential. I’m glad they didn’t consummate their relationship until after she finished her apprenticeship but I still question how they will ever have an equal relationship going forward. Then again, my great-grandfather met his second wife when she was a student in his class so it is possible. Maybe it’s just my modern sensibilities intruding into it.

I’m glad I finished this series. It’s never going to be a favorite of mine and I’m a little surprised to hear that Disney is looking at it for a movie, but the ending was better than the beginning. I still find the characters a little flat, and there is something indefinable about the books that just feels lacking, but this is a solid ending to the series. I think the author has talent, but maybe she’s just not the author for me.

Four half-hearted stars.

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