Title: Girls of Paper and Fire
Author: Natasha Ngan
Publisher: Hodder and Stoughton
Source: Bought (Paperback received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review)
Each year, eight beautiful girls are chosen as Paper Girls to serve the king.
It’s the highest honour they could hope for…
And the most demeaning.
This year, there’s a ninth girl.
And instead of paper,
She’s made of fire.
Lei is a member of the Paper caste, the lowest and most persecuted class in Ikhara. Ten years ago, her mother was snatched by the royal guards, and her fate remains unknown. Now, the guards are back, and this time it’s Lei they’re after — the girl whose golden eyes, whose rumoured beauty has 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. There, Lei 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 and Lei, still the wide-eyed country girl at heart, must decide how far she’s willing to go for justice and revenge.
Girls of Paper and Fire has been on my TBR since I picked it up at YALC in 2018. I (shamefully) didn’t pick it up until May of this year and I instantly regretted the fact that I had waited so long to get to it.
Before going into this book, I wasn’t too sure what to expect from Girls of Paper and Fire. All I really knew was that it had a pretty cover and that, from the blurb, I was interested to find out more. I did also know that there was quite a bit of hype surrounding this book and that piqued my interest too. I was intrigued to find out why this book had so much hype and whether it would live up to it.
Girls of Paper and Fire is set in Ikhara and follows our main character, Lei. Lei’s mother was taken ten years prior to when we meet her in this story and we can see how that affects her though she is content with her life. Lei is an intriguing character to those in Ikhara because she is the girl with golden eyes, eyes that shouldn’t belong to her. She gets taken from her home to become a Paper Girl at the King’s palace and that is where our story really starts.
I enjoyed the writing of this book and felt that the writing really settled into the story more as the book went on. I did find that the pacing was a little bit slow at first, which could be down to the slight reading slump I was in, but after the first 100-150 pages, I felt that the pace was then consistent until the last 50 or so pages when the plot really began to amp up and everything started to come together. The pacing did work for this book although I did feel it could have been a little quicker, but this did mean that it gave enough time to take in all the information given to us. I found the pacing and writing went well together, especially towards the end.
I did enjoy the plot of this book and found it to be quite interesting but also a little sad at times. The plot centres around Lei and her position of being a Paper Girl along with 8 others. The girls can be both supportive of each other and also mean. I mostly enjoyed the scenes when Lei was with certain characters as they felt more nerve wracking than others. The book explores themes of LGBTQ+ relationships and forbidden love within an environment that especially doesn’t permit it. The book also deals with themes of loss and grief and how both are dealt with. Overall, I thought the plot was interesting and solid.
As mentioned, we follow the character, Lei. Lei is quite a defiant character who deals with a lot throughout this book. After being taken from her family and all that she’s known, the wound of losing her mother is torn open again as she looks for answers as to what happened to her. Lei also fights the system in this story, displaying her strength and belief for what is right. I quite enjoyed her character and felt sorry for the situation that she had been forced into. As well a Lei, there were a few other girls in this book that Lei befriends that I liked. Though the Paper girl’s are not exactly close, we see glimpses of how they feel and because of that, I found myself warming to quite a few of them.
I thought that this was a great novel from Natasha. If you didn’t know, this is not actually her first novel, her first novel, The Elites, was actually on my TBR for a while but I never managed to get to it. Like many, Girls of Paper and Fire is my first introduction to her writing and I’m looking forward to reading more of it.
Unfortunately, I read this book when I was in a little bit of a slump so had I not been in a slump, I do think that I would’ve enjoyed this book more. Because of that, I have given it a more generous rating because I do genuinely think that it would’ve been a top read, had I not been going through a slumpy time. Other than that, I really enjoyed this book and felt that the ending of it has been set up quite well for the sequel. I’m excited to read what happens next in Girls of Storm and Shadow.
Make sure you check out the rest of the posts on this blog tour where you can find plenty of other Girls of Paper and Fire content!