Title: Girls of Paper and Fire
Author: Natasha Ngan
Publisher: Hachette Children’s Books, Australia
Released: 11th June, 2018
Trigger Warnings: Abuse, sexual violence, rape, violence against animals, murder, oppression, slut-shaming
Representation: Asian, POC, Sapphic
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.
Past Grey Reads
Clears throat, yells: I WANT WREN AND LEI TO TOP ME.
I have a lot of thoughts and feelings about this book, none of which want to be put on paper, so that’s fantastic!!!!
Never has it felt more true. Because it appears I have found a new person to betray, and it might be the worst one yet.
This book is about what happens when demons and humans occupy the same space.
It’s about two girls who fall in love.
It’s about a kingdom on the brink of war.
It’s about rebellion.
But most importantly, it’s about taking back your autonomy after it has been stolen from you, even if it means setting everything on fucking fire and getting blood on your hands.
“You mean the gods?”
“They’re angry,” the king growls, the familiar bite returning to his voice. A muscle ticks in his jaw. “They’re punishing us for something.”
Yes, I think. Probably you being a bastard.
This world was so intricate and well thought out and visual.
We start with being told that there are three different castes that make up the populace of the kingdom, Ikhara.
There’s Moon Caste who are demons.
Paper Caste who are human.
And Steel Caste who are a combination of both.
The Demon King sits straight in his throne doling out violence to his people.
But no one understands the violence the demon king is capable of better than his Paper Girls; the king’s personal collection of human girls to do with whatever he wishes.
Each year a new set of 8 girls are selected to serve their king until this year when there are 9.
Lei is ripped from her home thanks to her lucky eyes and is forced into a world she was never prepared for.
Two months gave me space and something almost resembling peace. But time has a way of folding itself away, like a map, distances and journeys and hours and minutes tucked away neatly to leave just the realness of the before and the now, as close as hands pressed on either side of a rice-paper door.
Ngan did a fantastic job at capturing the hopelessness these girls hold in their hearts.
She shows the cruelness that can come from women when a world pits them against each other. How easy it is to brainwash society into mistaking abuse for kindness, violence for strength.
Her writing was engaging, even when we are shown the day to day lives of in Paper House, where it could have been easy to lose interest.
Ngan had me fevered to find out more and empowered by the fierceness that came from these Paper Girls who are signed up for lives as objects instead of people.
Aoki flinches as though Mistress Eira had shouted. With a jagged breath, she looks at me, a white tinge to her lips where she sucks them in. “It’s what I wanted,” she breathes as she gets to her feet, a whisper that only the two of us hear, and I’m not entirely sure which one of us she’s trying to convince more.
I read an ARC copy that still had some of the comments from the author and editor (?). So it did kind of spoil things for me a little. I probably should have just chosen not to read them but I really can’t help myself.
Despite this, I still wanted to see how the story played out on the page and was rooting for Lei and Wren.
I do wish one reveal was slightly different though.
SpoilerI think I would have liked Blue’s cruelness to be a red herring. To have Aoki be the one who betrays Lei and Wren, would have made more sense to me, with Blue’s hatred for her circumstances and Aoki’s naivety. But that’s a personal preference.
“When the world denies you choices, you make your own.” her fingers skim to my wrists; she draws me even close. “This is my choice.”
This narrative has so much potential and I’m really looking forward to seeing what is to come!
If you’re going to pick this book up get ready to fall in love with these girls as they fall in love with each other.
Also, to all other books ever; give me more kickass warrior girlfriends, please. Thanks.
The label is ugly, but only because I let it be. The realization strikes with me with such force that I’m incredulous to have not thought of it before.
Perhaps being a dzarja can be a good thing if you are betraying the right people.
*Taken from Goodreads.
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Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with an advanced reader copy in exchange for my honest review.
Past Grey’s Shelves
I loved this book so much and I hope you enjoy it too!
Have you read Girls of Paper and Fire yet?
What books have you read recently that you enjoyed?