Series: Girls of Paper and Fire #1
Release Date: November 6th 2018
Publisher: Hodder Books
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: I bought a copy of this in my local bookshop
Rating: 3.75/5 stars
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 demeaning. This year, there’s a ninth. And instead of paper, she’s made of fire.
In this richly developed fantasy, Lei is a member of the Paper caste, the lowest and most persecuted class of people in Ikhara. She lives in a remote village with her father, where the decade-old trauma of watching her mother snatched by royal guards for an unknown fate still haunts her. Now, the guards are back and this time it’s Lei they’re after — the girl with the golden eyes whose rumored beauty has piqued the king’s interest.
Over weeks of training in the opulent but oppressive palace, Lei and eight other girls learns the skills and charm that befit a king’s consort. There, she does the unthinkable — she falls in love. Her forbidden romance becomes enmeshed with an explosive plot that threatens her world’s entire way of life. Lei, still the wide-eyed country girl at heart, must decide how far she’s willing to go for justice and revenge.
Girls of Paper and Fire is a book that has been on my TBR for absolutely ages. I’ve heard incredible things about it so going in I had some pretty high expectations. The story follows Lei, a young girl forced to become a courtesan for the Demon King. Being a Paper Girl is the worst fate imaginable for Lei, who wants nothing more than to remain at home with her family. While forced to learn skills befitting a woman at court, Lei falls in love – a forbidden romance that if discovered, could be her death.
Girls of Paper and Fire has a really fascinating premise and while I really enjoyed it, I had expected to love it a lot more than I did. I really enjoyed Ngan’s writing style, but felt the world building could have been a little stronger in this book. There is quite a bit of info dump at the beginning and it took me a little while to wrap my head round the castes and rules of the world.
The story is well paced, and the last hundred pages are incredibly gripping as the action heats up. Girls of Paper and Fire ends with the promise of even higher stakes and more drama in book two, so I’m looking forward to seeing what Girls of Storm and Shadow will bring. The characters Ngan has created in this book are probably what I enjoyed most about this story. I really liked Lei and the other paper girls, it was fascinating seeing them come from different backgrounds and cope with the horrors of being a paper girl. The romance is well done too, it doesn’t overtake the main plot and Ngan gives it plenty of time to develop. I would have liked to learn a bit more about the Demon King. He felt like a bit cookie cutter for me.
Natasha Ngan has weaved a clever tale full of action, political intrigue and romance. A word of warning that the story is quite a dark one, and will have trigger warnings for rape and abuse. It’s an impressive start to this exciting YA fantasy series, and I’m looking forward to reading more from Natasha Ngan. Though it didn’t completely live up to my expectations I still really enjoyed this one, and if you’re curious about picking it up I’d recommend trying it out!