Saturday, November 3, 2018

Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

Title: Girls of Paper and Fire
Author: Natasha Ngan
Genre: High Fantasy
Source: Hachette

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.
Review by Nara

I really enjoyed Girls of Paper and Fire. While the story progression was rather predictable, I found that the characterisation and writing were so excellent that I didn't mind that the plot was relatively linear.

The book features a F/F romance, and I wish I could say I was invested in it. To be quite honest, it felt a bit underdeveloped and fast paced. Maybe this was just me though, because I have seen a couple of comments from various people that they really enjoyed the romance. On the other hand, I did very much enjoy the development of the individual characters, and thought there was a lot to be invested in in terms of the individual character journies.

The world building is excellent, with the caste concept falling into the realm of fantasy (demons vs half-demons vs humans). I'm quite interested to continue the series and learn more about the various castes and the dynamics between them, as we got a pretty limited view in the palace. I'm also looking forward to discovering why Lei has golden eyes, and whether there is more to her ancestry.

Overall, a standard fantasy plot that is built on a foundation of excellent world building and well developed characters. I'm looking forward to seeing what deviations off standard Ngan will be able to show us in further books of the trilogy.

Really liked it
Overall: 8/10
Plot: 4/5
Romance: 3.5/5
Writing: 4/5
World Building: 4/5
Characters: 4/5
Cover: 4/5