Series: Girls of Paper and Fire #1
Publication date : November 6th, 2018
Publisher : Jimmy Patterson Books
Genre : Young Adult | Fantasy
Page Count: 400
Synopsis : 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. (From Goodreads)
CW: Animal death, kidnapping, sexual assault, rape, murder, violence, physical assault, torture, slavery, execution, gore.
Girls of Paper on Fire was hands down one of my most anticipated releases of 2018, definitely in the top 10, so much so that I preordered a copy (preordering turns out VERY expensive when nothing but Amazon ships to you) and FINALLY got around to reading it last month. And I gotta say, this book was a WILD RIDE, it lived up to my expectations and I was fairly confident it would be a new favourite, up until the very end where it ended up disappointing me a bit. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, let’s dive into the review and I’ll give more details about that later on.
One (of many) thing I give Girls of Paper and Fire is how immersive it is, it sucked me in and had me wanting to read more from the very first pages and that feeling never really went away. Ngan’s writing is beautiful and poetic, it pulled at my heart strings but was still gutting when it needed to be, which struck a great balance all throughout the book. The descriptions are also lush and exquisite, from clothes to food, including people, smells, scenery, etc… The prose definitely added to my overall enjoyment of the book.
The worldbuilding was also very well done and I could feel how much care was put into it. It’s clear, vivid and pretty easy to understand from very early on, which I think is one of the reasons I was so quickly invested in what was happening. I never had to stop and think about the setting, it all just made sense. I especially loved how every region had its own distinct culture and we got a glimpse of each other them through Lei’s fellow paper girls who come from a variety of different backgrounds. But since Girls of Paper and Fire is set mainly in the palace, we don’t get to experience those cultures directly, which I didn’t mind at all because the court setting was very enjoyable as well since it included a lot of court intrigue, scheming and betrayal as a lot of people aren’t huge fans of the king. Lei being one of them.
The world Ngan creates is made of three different casts: Moon casts who are fully animal demons, Steel cast who are mainly human with a slight animal feature, and Paper cast who are 100% human and you might have guessed that the humans are the lower class citizens. The book follows Lei as she’s forced to become one of the Demon King’s courtisans so it dives deep into the logistics and etiquette of what it takes to get in bed with him. It was both fascinating and at times horrifying, especially with how brutal some parts of their “training” were. One thing that came out of this topic and that was a pleasant surprise is how sex positive this book is. Talking freely about taking back agency even in less than favorable situations.
Another thing I didn’t expect (but I should have…with the cast system) is the social commentary all throughout the book and how central of a role it played in the book with treason talk, and coup talk and ending corruption and injustice and I LIVED FOR IT, it only made me enjoy the book all the more, because with the way it’s built, it would’ve been extremely lacking otherwise. All these events are very well paced and make for a pleasant (albeit, at time hard hitting) reading experience that has you turning pages well into the night.
The one issue I had, that made me dock a star was the ending. It wasn’t bad in any way, shape or form, the events and the way it was wrapped up were good and made me REALLY look forward to the sequel (that last chapter?….shook). That being said, it was very rushed and it felt like a blur, while reading the last 30 pages or I felt like I was watching the events unfold through a semi-opaque screen. On one hand, it’s understandable because of how fast the events unfold and the MC being in the middle of it all, but in the other hand, I wish the book ended on a more powerful note. Because the events themselves were one hell of a bang but the fact they were rushed and a bit messily executed dimmed my enjoyment.
I absolutely loved Lei‘s character. I loved that no matter the changes, the development and even the trauma she goes through, her essence is the same. She’s a fearless girl who stands for justice and does her best with the means she has to try and change things, which sometimes makes her reckless and impulsive and that leads to her putting her life at risk, but some other times it leads to her doing the right thing even when that means she’ll face heavy repercussions. She was also an amazing mix of unwavering strength and heartwarming softness and we need more heroines like that, girls who don’t need to be hard and cold to be strong, girls who show weakness without that ever taking away from their strength, girls who are okay with breaking sometimes and who try their best to put themselves together even when the pieces don’t fit quite as well as they used to.
Then we have Wren, the love interest. A fierce girl who’s more than she appears to be and hides more than one secret under her quiet and reserved façade. I loved seeing her open up little by little, first to Lei and admitting her huge ass crush, then to some of the other girls (ever so slightly) and can we talk about how soft for Lei she is? Or even better, how soft and gay they both are for each other? I loved every moment they had together, even the sad or hard hitting ones, especially those. Because no matter how happened between them their faith in each other was unwavering and they stood together facing whatever is thrown at them.
All in all, this is a very promising series opener that has me super excited about the sequel and how the story might unfold in the future. Everything will probably be set on fire and there will be a lot of pain. But it’s fine. I’m fine. (no i’m not).
That’s it until next time.
Did you read Girls of Paper and Fire? If so, what did you think?
Hope you enjoyed, write to you soon.