Girls of Paper and Fire (Girls of Paper and Fire #1) by Natasha Ngan
Publisher: Jimmy Patterson Books (November 6, 2018)
Print Length: 400 pages
Audiobook Length: 14hrs and 23mins
Narrator: Allison Hiroto
Each year, eight beautiful girls are chosen as Paper Girls to serve the king. It’s the highest honor they could hope for…and the most cruel.
But this year, there’s a ninth girl. And instead of paper, she’s made of fire.
In this lush fantasy, Lei is a member of the Paper caste, the lowest and most oppressed class in Ikhara. She lives in a remote village with her father, where the decade-old trauma of watching her mother snatched by royal guards still haunts her. Now, the guards are back, and this time it’s Lei they’re after–the girl whose golden eyes have piqued the king’s interest.
Over weeks of training in the opulent but stifling palace, Lei and eight other girls learn the skills and charm that befit being a king’s consort. But Lei isn’t content to watch her fate consume her. Instead, she does the unthinkable–she falls in love. Her forbidden romance becomes enmeshed with an explosive plot that threatens the very foundation of Ikhara, and Lei, still the wide-eyed country girl at heart, must decide just how far she’s willing to go for justice and revenge.
TW: violence and sexual abuse.
I want to preface this review with the notion that my rating is do to my own personal preferences and not the book itself. I did so badly want to love Girls of Paper and Fire one, because it deals with issues that are just as prevalent today as they were in the historical setting of this book, and two, because I love books that are heavily character driven.
On a positive note, I did quite enjoy Ngan’s writing style. The prose were beautifully structured and the world of Ikhara is expertly fleshed out, making it at least manageable for me to finish reading. However, I did find a time or two through out the novel that there was repetition in the language and situations, which did take me out of the story just a bit.
I also found that when I read Girls of Paper and Fire it was extremely difficult, personally, to get past the sexual violence of the plot because it permeated every aspect of the book. It is a hard topic to cover, and I commend Ngan for using her influence to shed light on a topic that is shied away from, but I wasn’t a huge fan of the fact that Ngan labeled her main character, Lei, as brave because she fought back against oppression, without also exploring the motivations of the women who didn’t. I did on the flip side rather enjoy the f/f romance, and found that it wasn’t just thrown into the plot to be superficially representative. I found myself invested in the lives of Lei and Wren, and hope that by the end of the series that they do find a sense of happiness, regardless of the fact that I probably won’t continue their journey with them by reading the next book.
Overall Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars.
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And those are my thoughts on Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan. Have any YA fantasy recommendations you think I should check out? Leave them as a comment below and help my TBR grow.