Paper Mage

Written by Leah R. Cutter
Review by Tracey A. Callison

Leah R. Cutter’s debut novel soars like the magic creatures that fill its pages. It is the story of Xiao Yen, a young girl from the Middle Kingdom (China) who, in following the path her duty and loyalty have built for her, grows into herself and her gifts in a way that she did not anticipate. Drawing her inspiration from the T’ang era, the author has created a world both magical and real. The novel is deftly woven from two storylines: young Xiao Yen as she is removed from the closeness of her family and undergoes training as a paper mage, and an older Xiao Yen on her first assignment, where she has been hired to protect two foreign merchants – the beginning of an incredible adventure. Unsure of herself and torn between conflicting loyalties and desires, Xiao Yen is an appealing and likable heroine whom it is a great joy to watch unfold and blossom into her true form. Cutter seamlessly integrates the elements of the novel together – Xiao Yen’s growth as a paper mage (and young woman), in a society where women are meant to listen to stories, not to create them; the threat posed to the Middle Kingdom by an ambitious and cruel barbarian horse-lord; and the world itself, where immortals and deities walk the earth and magic is real, with real costs. A stunning debut.