Book Review: Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

Girls of Paper and Fire

Book: Girls of Paper and Fire

Author: Natasha Ngan

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson Books

Release date: November 6th 2018

Pages: 336

Genre: YA Fantasy

Trigger Warnings: Rape and Sexual Assault

Each year, eight 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.

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.

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Girls of Paper and Fire is set in a fascinating Asian inspired fantasy world, where there are different castes made up of demons, half demons/half human and humans, and there’s also differnet clans within those castes with varing amounts of power. The rich and mysterious histories of some of the clans left me intrigued and wanting to explore this world more, especially, because we only get little bits of information sprinkled thorught the book in a way that felt natural to the story, which makes it more alluring.

The main character, Lei, wasn’t the most compelling or complex character in the story, but what I liked about her is that she is a normal girl, she doesn’t know how to fight, she is not the brightest strategist and she is not a master of cunning and decieve, and in a sense, it’s refreshing to find a character like that in a fantasy book, because it shows that there’s different ways to be brave and to fight back, which is something this book does really way. 

A very powerful thing this book does is show the lenghts some men will go to to feel powerful and how so many times girls get trapped in this horrible situations because of that. So many times men see women’s bodies as a place to show and impose their power, especiacilly if they feel powerless in other parts of their lives. Also, this book does a very good job of showing the way girls react differently to an impossible situation, which was one of my favorite parts of the story. Each paper girl reclaims her body and her sense of self in their own way.

Nonetheless, I felt like most of the paper girls were pretty much stereotypes: the mean one, the innocent one, the mysterious one and some of them I didn’t even get to know enough to say anything about them. From the paper girls, Wren was definitely the most three dimentional and interesting and I would love to have her pov in the next book. Another character that I really liked and that I wish we saw more and found out more about is Zelle, which has only a couple scenes in the book but managed to intrigued me like almost no other character in the story.

Something else I really enjoyed in this book was getting to see two queer, Asian girls being in love even when it’s a forbidden love. I do think the romance was a bit insta-love-y, but the way the relationship evolves and the way they give each other strenght, support, compassion, understanding and trust is wonderful, so I didn’t mind the insta-love.

Lastly, I have to say that unfortunetly  I never felt like I was completely inmerse in the story, I felt like the writing was okay but didn’t make me feel emotionally invested in the plot or the characters.

Overall, Girls of Paper and Fire has such an important message, the sensitive themes and topics that it addresses are so well handle and the world building is so intriguing and fascinating that it’s definitely worth reading even if there are some small issues with the characters and writing. 

Rating: 4 stars

Have you read this book? Are you planning on reading it? What Asian inspired fantasy books would you recommend?

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