I was excited to kick off my first month as a Words & Whimsy mod by reading a book that had been on my TBR for far too long – Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan. I received an arc of this in exchange for an honest review, and I’m excited to say I really enjoyed it!
While it’s not a perfect book by any means, it was an enjoyable read and a great new fantasy. However, I do want to point out that there are trigger warnings for this book. If you’re sensitive to anything like that, I highly recommend you look up the trigger warnings before reading.
“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.
TW: violence and sexual abuse.” – Goodreads
In this novel, we follow Lei, a paper caste girl from a small village. There are three different castes in this world – Paper caste, the lowest class, Steel caste, the middle class, and Moon caste, the highest class. One quiet day, a group of Moon caste soldiers show up at the shop Lei helps run with her father, and take her away to be one of the king’s Paper Girls against her will.
Every year, the king chooses eight Paper Girls to be his personal consorts. This year, Lei is chosen as a ninth girl, due to her strikingly beautiful golden eyes. Lei knows she must stay if she is to keep her family safe, but that doesn’t mean she’s going to take the injustices quietly.
I found the plot to be totally thrilling throughout. I was excited to see how Lei would overcome her situation, with the help from friends she meets in the palace. Lei is a much stronger girl than she believes herself to be, and it was a beautiful thing to see her learn this herself. While the subject matter of the book was hard to read at times, I thought it was handled respectfully.
Lei is a great character, she’s easy to root for and I really wanted to see her succeed. I also really loved Wren, another one of the Paper Girls, who is so strong and probably the coolest character in the book.
The king is a fascinating villain. He’s sinister, and has a terrifying way of making others love him, which is a truly scary skill to have. I found myself wondering whether he would be a good guy at heart, then switching to genuinely being afraid of him. I feel that’s what makes him so interesting.
While I won’t be sharing any spoilers in this review, I will say that the ending made me knock my rating down a star. I can’t elaborate on why, other than to say I found it very unsatisfying. I’m looking forward to the sequel and hoping to see more things resolved. If you’ve read the book and want to discuss the ending, send me a message on Instagram or Twitter, I’d love to talk!
Overall, I really enjoyed this book despite it’s flaws. If you’re not bothered by the subject matter, I definitely recommend it and would love to hear your thoughts below if you’ve already read it!
My Rating: ★★★★