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Paper Mage

3.43 of 5 stars 3.43  ·  rating details  ·  150 ratings  ·  29 reviews
In a small Chinese village during the Tang Dynasty, an unsure young woman has managed to elude the conventions of her society to become a gifted paper mage-one who creates magic with the ancient art of paper folding. Because her gifts are in demand for the protection they can offer, Xiao Yen must leave behind her beloved family and embark on a dangerous mission. Yet she ha...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published March 4th 2003 by Roc (first published 2003)
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Bridge of Birds by Barry HughartThe Tales of the Otori Trilogy by Lian HearnThe Twelve Kingdoms by Fuyumi OnoEon by Alison GoodmanThe Sandman by Neil Gaiman
Chinese and Japanese Fantasy
46th out of 150 books — 248 voters
The Windup Girl by Paolo BacigalupiThrone of the Crescent Moon by Saladin AhmedThe Chronicles of Master Li and Number Ten Ox by Barry HughartThe Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. JemisinHunter's Run by George R.R. Martin
Non-Western Speculative Fiction
34th out of 74 books — 32 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 377)
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Robert Beveridge
Leah Cutter, Paper Mage (Roc, 2003)

The whole time I was reading this book, which I did on and off (far more off than on) for almost four months, I kept feeling vaguely guilty that I didn't like it a great deal more than I actually did. I think this is because I can't quite put a finger on why it is I found the book to drag so terribly. It's not the pacing, the characters, the plot, or anything else I can pick out; there's just something.

The book concerns a young woman named Xiao Yen, a newly-gra...more
Faith Justice
This is the review I wrote for Paper Mage in Strange Horizons in August 2003

In Paper Mage, Leah R. Cutter takes us on a journey to a faraway place and time, a refreshing change from the traditional faux European medieval fantasies that glut bookstore shelves. Set in the Tang Dynasty of the Middle Kingdom (about the time of Charlemagne in Europe), the novel tells us of the adventures of Xiao Yen, a young woman training to become a paper mage, a sorceror with the power to endow folded creations wi...more
Kelda Mystern
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This book was one of the more unique books that I have in a while. The entire magic of the world was interesting. It felt nice to be reading a fantasy book not set in some medieval world. The magic was something different and wasn't your typical wizards and whatnot. I liked both of the story-lines that were being told: Xiao Yen's paper mage training and her adventure as a new mage.
I know some people didn't like how the author changed from the past and to the present every chapter. I, however, r...more
Xiao Yen is a rarity--a female who can harness paper magic. After years of relentless training, she hires out to protect a travelling caravan. Within days, she is enlisted in the fight against an evil, immortal warlord. After defeating a dragon and the warlord, she races back to her home city to warn them of the warlord's unleashed army. Xiao Yen has a very precise personality that the author carefully constructs in the present day and in flashbacks to her training. The world is a well-developed...more
Barbara Gordon
Paper Mage, by Leah Cutter, is about a young girl in ancient China who practices origami magic and is hired out to protect a caravan. But her real aim is to do great deeds and earn a peach of immortality for the aunt who paid for her training. The story follows two timelines, alternating chapters between the caravan journey, where one of her fellow travellers is a goddess who charges her with a dangerous quest, and her childhood training, torn between her aunt's plans and her mother's plans to h...more
I've often wished that there were more books that had an Eastern influence to them. There's a lot of Western fantasy, but not much that has to do with Chinese or Japanese mythology or lives or the like.

And then I picked up Paper Mage, by Leah Cutter. The book, as many of my books in the TBR mountain are, is somewhat old. It was published in 2003 and it was Leah's debut book. It's a great story and so unique it makes me smile just having read it.

But it's not an *easy* read.

For all that I wanted...more
I am a big fantasy sci-fi buff, but after a time I just had to stop reading the books because they were so similar, or I would realise 20 pages into it that I had already read it. No such problems there with Leah R. Cutter's Paper Mage (ROC, 2003). What could possibly be new in the world of fantasy? "In a small Chinese village during the Tang Dynasty, an unsure young woman has managed to elude the conventions of her society to become a gifted paper mage-one who creates magic with the ancient art...more
People talk a lot about pacing with this book, and I can understand the complaint. It's not very swashbuckling; each chapter sort of plods along, interesting and engaging but not a page-turner.

The really incredible part about this book (and the reason I finally decided on a four-star rating instead of three) is the sheer amount of research that went into it and also the textured, gritty world that Cutter put together. This is a book you don't read for the story as much as you read to live in the...more
This novel for a perfectly acceptable, escapist piece of fiction. Unfortunately that's all it was. Within the story, the heroine initially bucked tradition by learning magic and then was thrust into world events where she interacts with mystical beings and dragons, not to mention foreigners. Unfortunately the book felt quite juvenile and lacked the momentum I have come to expect. Additionally, Cutter used the strange conceit of alternating chapters from the main characters childhood and magic tr...more
I found this book enjoyable but frustrating at times. I loved the introduction and would have been interested if the book had continued with Mei Mei. I think the events of the past would have been better grouped in sequential order as the story lost some of its potency knowing what would happen. There were a few sections where I was left scratching my head (view spoiler) and 1/4 of...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I always love reading fantasies that take place in the non-Western historical world. The idea of paper magic is an interesting one and very different from traditional ideas of magic. I enjoyed the book; it told a very good story with a very likable main character. However, I did not like Wang Tei-Tei very much; she seemed to be manipulative and demanding in her quest to get an immortal peach for herself. But since she did not get much "screen" time, it was a minor point, and she was an important...more
A.G. Lindsay
This book had a lot going for it from an unusual kind of magic to a setting based on Chinese culture (a setting which I have not run into very often) to a female protagonist who was not a "pretty, pretty princess" or an overeducated Amazon.

Unfortunately, I had set it aside half-way through to do some reading for work and just couldn't get back into it when I picked it up again. I leafed through the second-half to find out the ending, and I think if I had kept with it, I might not have as low an...more
Apr 14, 2012 A.k. rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Fantasy lovers, fans of Chinese mythology
Mostly a sweet story of a girl having to choose between the life of a paper mage (her aunt's wish for her) or the traditional life of a devoted daughter, wife and mother (what everyone expects of her). The story takes a surprisingly brutal turn in the final third of the book but remains a strong tale of familial expectations and personal choice.

The descriptions of the ancient Chinese landscapes, clothing and mythology are the real treat of this book.
Feb 08, 2013 Kerry marked it as dnf
I loved the premise of this when I first saw it and I've been looking forward to reading it.

Unfortunately, I got halfway through and realised I was bored. I just didn't feel inspired to finish and didn't mind that I wasn't going to discover the fates of the characters.

So a great premise that failed to deliver for me.

[Copied across from Library Thing; 9 February 2013]
A comfort reread from my shelf.
I might be a little biased because I first read this book during trying times, and it was a great friend to me. The story itself is about choices and consequence, and the plot is relatively fast paced - although I prefer the parts where the main character is on the road. This book is a keeper.
Oh, how I wish I'd liked it more. On the one hand, I liked the concept of paper magic and the Eastern/Oriental cultural aspects. The characters were well-written and interesting. But on the other hand, the pacing was a little too deliberate for my taste, and I just couldn't get into the story as much as I wanted to.
Interesting, easy read. I remember someone recommended it to me, someone who rarely gave any book recommendations... Possibly because of my interest in origami, I think. But it also served my interest in non-Western fantasy. I think I gave the book away, which is sad, because now I'm interested in revisiting it.
I enjoy oriental flavor fantasy tales. This one helped recharge my own creative powers for a few days. I wrote several pages of my Orcish Dreams manuscript. This story reminded me strongly of the Disney movie Mulan. This writer is definitely going places. Sadly this book is going back to the library. =)
Melissa Robertson
I wasn't expecting to like this book at all. I just needed something to fill in my time while waiting to be picked from school, and I found this book in my school library. It was a really cool read! Think Mulan, with magical origami...
I read this a long time ago, but I think it says a lot that what I remember is not the origami at all but the (view spoiler).
I loved the idea of this book. Origami magic! In practice I had trouble with some of the writing though, which was not helped by little copy editing. (My copy had a typo in the very first sentence!)
I loved this book. Not least because the main character ends up alone( as in single) but happy enough with her life. not enough books ever show that this is an option.
Bobbi Taniguchi
A nice book for its genre, although a little sad, as she is still solitary when the book ends, and you don't really care about any of the other characters.
Interesting concept and world, but not as much character development as I prefer. Still, it was a good book to read in the car on a long drive.
Feb 20, 2010 pearl marked it as to-read
Shelves: fantasy, china
Looks like "Read or Die" set in mythological China...
Bronwen Stair
will look for more by this author. Interesting
Jul 27, 2007 Naomi marked it as to-read
on recommendation by Samantha...
Nov 21, 2008 Elizabeth marked it as to-read
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Leah Cutter's first three novels ("Paper Mage," "Caves of Buda," and "The Jaguar and the Wolf") are all historic fantasies, set in diverse periods of time, such as Tang dynasty China, WWII Budapest, and the Viking era.

Her recent novels, ("Clockwork Kingdom," "Zydeco Queen and the Creole Fairy Courts," and "The Raven and the Dancing Tiger") are all contemporary fantasies, and set on the Oregon coa...more
More about Leah Cutter...
The Caves of Buda Clockwork Kingdom The Jaguar and the Wolf Poisoned Pearls Siren's Call

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