Review: Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

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My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Genre: YA Fantasy
Pages: 336
Pacing: Average/Normal
Publisher: Jimmy Patterson Books
Published: November 6th, 2018
Trigger Warnings: Sexual Assault, Rape, Grief, Graphic Animal Death (short but upsetting), Violence, Sex Trafficking, Slut Shaming

 

 

 

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. – synopsis from Goodreads

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“I don’t want an easy life. I want a meaningful one.”

This was an intensely difficult read, but so worth it.  I’m so happy this book came into my life.  It’s beautiful, heartbreaking, enraging, but at its core – it’s empowering.

Girls of Paper and Fire is a November group read in TBR and Beyond and I’m so glad we chose this one.  YA novels are getting more and more solid and important all the time.  It’s such a wonderful time to be in the YA community and be able to read all these amazing, diverse stories.   This book will 100% be among my favorites this year.

We start with our main protagonist Lei, right at the beginning she is ripped away from her family and life in a horrific scene because she has been chosen to be one of the Demon Kings concubines.   I found the first couple of chapters very difficult, I connected to Lei right away and felt her pain terribly.  One Lei is at the castle, we meet the other young women who have been “honored” to become the King’s concubines as well.   The women are all completely different and all from different walks of life but they share this scary and awful truth about how their lives are supposed to play out from now on.  I loved seeing the different types of coping techniques and emotions the young women went through during all this.  It felt very authentic and all felt like valid ways of trying to survive something traumatizing.

The world and magic system is very fleshed out and I didn’t have any trouble following it.  It was very well-written and I particularly loved hearing about all the different kinds of demons and clans.  Since the author takes the time to develop her world and all her characters, this book is a bit of a slow burn.   The ending starts to have a ton of action but the rest of the story is reading about these girls lives within the castle and what is going on.  Even though it is a slow burn, I thought the pacing was perfect and I wasn’t bored for even a moment.  I was much too worried for all the women in this story to feel like the book needed more action.

One thing I love about Girls of Paper and Fire is that we get to know all the side characters and actually care about them.  We also have a BEAUTIFUL budding romance between two of the young girls that is beyond swoon-worthy and I ship them 100%.  I won’t say who because you’ll have to read it to find that part out! It’s also beyond amazing that this is an ownvoice Asian inspired story  –  I was over-the-moon to see that.  Please give us so much more of these types of stories by authors of color.  I’m not saying that to be trendy – I’m saying it because these stories have so much to offer us and give us something new and fresh in the North American market.

Obviously, I’m recommending this book.  Please read the trigger warnings at the beginning of this review though because this is a hard read.  If you have a trigger towards graphic depictions of sexual assault then please go into this book in a healthy mental state.  Overall, I give this book five stars and I feel privileged to have gotten to read this one early.

Thank you to Jimmy Patterson Presents for an advanced reader copy (ARC) of this book, in exchange for an honest review.

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