Book Review: Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

 

Girls of Paper and Fire (Girls of Paper and Fire #1)Book: Girls of Paper and Fire
Author: Natasha Ngan
Published: November 6, 2018
Rating: ★★★★
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.

The Good

  • This book is full of purple prose which I know may grate on some people’s nerves, but for me it is fun to read. It adds more depth to the character’s emotions and the places she finds herself in.
  • So many female characters! It’s not often that you find a YA fantasy where the majority of the important characters are females, and only one of them falls into the “mean girl” trope. I loved watching women bonding over their shared experiences together.
  • I loved the Asian inspired world filled with humans, half demons, and full demons, and the caste system they are placed (some forced) into. While there wasn’t much world building there was enough for the reader to understand what was going on inside the world, and Ngan definitely has an opportunity to explore more of the world in the rest of her series. This was definitely a good start for the first book in the trilogy.
  • Her takes on the one’s with demon blood in their veins being a perfect mesh of human-like features and animal-like features was something I haven’t seen before, and I found it fascinating to try and imagine what these creatures looked like.
  • Ngan explores a lot of different important topics; structural racism, an oppressive regime, and the objectification and violence against women. The latter was Ngan’s strongest part of her book as the readers took a deep dive into the horrors that women have to face in a society that only views them as commodities.
  • Lei’s relationship with Wren was one of the biggest selling points for me before reading the book, and honestly did not disappoint. I loved how their healthy, consensual, loving relationship was juxtapoisitioned against the atrocities that the Paper girls faced as the Demon King’s commodities.

The Bad 

  • This book didn’t have the tension that Ngan was striving for, and that was mostly due to the characters themselves. The book kept telling me that the stakes for the Paper Girls, and Lei specifically, were very high, yet that was never truly shown to me. Lei was constantly breaking the rules or speaking out of turn without a second thought and even when she received consequences for those actions she basically just shrugged them off. How am I supposed to be afraid/worried for her if Lei herself isn’t that afraid/worried?
  • The majority of the characters felt two dimensional to me. We never really got to know the Paper Girls, even Aoki–Lei’s best friend–didn’t have the much depth to her. She spent the majority of her time with these girls, so it felt weird that we never got to know them. I also felt this with the Demon King as well. He came off as tyrannical and also a little crazed which definitely turned him into the villian that he was intended to be, but with no other substance behind him he easily blends in with other YA fantasy villains.

The Ugly

  • Nothing!!

 

Trigger warning for sexual assault and rape.

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