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Paper Mage by Leah R. Cutter

Review by Caleyna

Paper Mage is my favorite kind of book--ancient Chinese setting with female lead and real live mythical creatures. Leah R. Cutter's freshman effort is good, but lacks that dazzle that makes a book great.

Cutter has meticulously researched the world, causing ancient China to pop out at the reader. You can see the clothing, the behavior and the architecture. Unfortuntely you can't really see the story--mainly because it's just not there. The promise is great. Xiao Yen must struggle against convention to become a paper mage in a world dominated by men. She must save a goddess, fight an evil barbarian overlord and save a city. Sounds exciting, doesn't it? It turns out to not be so exciting. Cutter quickly resolves all exciting plot lines and spends most of the book keeping her character in a state of angst to rival the most angst filled modern teen.

I found the writing to be sparse and simple. If it wasn't for some very adult themes, I would classify this as a children's book. The story goes from a young school girl Xiao Yen to an older Xiao Yen who is making her way in the world. I found the switches in every other chapter to be rather annoying. I could see that the author was trying to reveal Xiao Yen's motivations just a little at a time, but I found it annoying. It would have been better to have either a more linear time line or small flashbacks instead of huge chunks of childhood stories right in middle of the action.

Will I read another Cutter book? Probably. I won't buy it in hardback, but I do think she will end up being an author I enjoy. She just needs to focus more on plot and less on introspection. Overall I'll give this book 3 amulets.

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