Published by Jimmy Patterson Books (11.6.2018)
Genres: High Fantasy, Young Adult
Format: ARC, 336 pages
Source: For Tour
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.
Trigger warning: Rape, abuse, animal killing
I have NO clue what I was expecting when I picked this book up – I know I read the synopsis when I added it but for some reason I wasn’t sure if it was going to be a ‘me’ book. Actually, I was quite sure it wasn’t going to be and I don’t even know why.
The result? I was blown away! In the very beginning I was HOOKED, and positively loving it. It had a very strong Daughter of Smoke and Bone feel because of the three castes (Paper, or human; Steel, or half demon; and Moon, or full demon/animalistic) and I was all about it! I was sure it would be a 5 star book. I freaking LOVED the concept and the magical feel of the world. The idea of the castes was absolutely incredible and was definitely my favorite part of this book. It was BRILLIANT! That was what really got me going in the beginning was the introduction of the castes and the amazing world.
The Asian culture was incredible! I am OBSESSED with Asian culture and I crave stories centering around it. There aren’t enough of them in YA! The world was very rich and beautiful.
We might be Paper Girls, easily torn and written upon. The very title we’re given suggests that we are blank, waiting to be filled. But what the Demon King and his court do not understand is that paper is flammable. And there is a fire catching among us.
Sadly, somewhere along the way my excitement waned a bit. Once Lei arrived at the palace, things got a little boring. The castes were kind of forgotten – yes, it’s a big part of her life there because she is a Paper Girl and they are Paper caste, but the animalistic castes kind of faded into the background and were forgotten. It was these parts that felt like any other High Fantasy set in a palace. That’s really the only reason this book didn’t earn 5 stars for me is that my interest died down a little because it started to feel generic at the palace.
I will say that I am 100% pleased with the direction the romance took. I won’t say anything else without spoiler tags because I want you guys to discover it on your own! It’s very rare that we aren’t sure of who the MC is going to be with from the get go, so I want you all to have the experience of being surprised like I was. View Spoiler »I had NO clue this was LGBT so to be honest going in I figured it was setting up for a romance with the king. Which would have been gag me with a spoon because the king was a horrific person. But I was totally expecting that cliche to happen and I was SO glad that it didn’t! I actually really loved the romance between Lei and Wren. It was unexpected, sweet, and genuine. And it was a slow building romance, which I love! « Hide Spoiler
“I don’t want an easy life. I want a meaningful one.”
I LOVED Wren! She was fabulous! I wanted to know more about her from the very beginning. She was my fave character for sure!
Girls of Paper and Fire was a diverse, stunning, and magical read – highly recommend!
Regarding the trigger warnings:
As far as the rape goes – I was steeling myself for it the whole book because hello, the synopsis basically guarantees it’s coming. The Paper Girls were meant for it. Thankfully it wasn’t as bad as I expected – it still sucked, but thank heavens it wasn’t graphic. The actual scene was glossed over, which was a relief. It doesn’t shy away from the subject but also doesn’t go into gory detail (which is NOT something I want to read, that kind of stuff messes me up. I was dreading the inevitable rape scene the whole time). The abuse is something that’s a bit difficult to read, though. I’m glad that Lei takes a stand against it and that it wasn’t romanticized like so many other books that contain abuse in YA.
The dog murder in the beginning was really rough, too. If that’s something that bothers you (like it does me), then be prepared. I kind of wish I’d had a warning because I was bawling. Not fun to read.
“Remember, even that which seems impossible at first can be overcome by strength of mind and heart.”
“When the world denies you choices, you make your own.”
Perhaps being a traitor can be a good thing if you are betraying those who deserve it.
“What do you think love is, then?”
“Necessary. Powerful. Maybe the most important thing women like us can do.”
Writing style: 4/5
Overall rating: 4.5/5
I’ve never heard of Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan before. I’m so glad I stumbled upon your review! It sounds like a fantastic read. Plus I always love a book with some Asian influences. I’m not sure if this is the book for me to read right now though. It sounds a bit heavy. I’ll definitely keep it in mind for the future though. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on it!
I’m so excited to read that you liked this because it’s one of my most anticipated reads! I’m glad to know the rape was handled well. Im glad a palace fantasy is finally addressing issues of consent because it’s always been a problem in stories like this (romanticized oe made to be not a problem).