Girls of Paper and Fire
Author: Natasha Ngan
Series: Girls of Paper and Fire #1
Publication Date: 6th November 2018
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Trigger warning: this book contains sexual assault, rape, violence, abuse and animal death
‘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.
Lei is a member of the Paper caste, the lowest and most persecuted class of people in Ikhara. Ten years ago, her mother was snatched by 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 have piqued the king’s interest.
Over weeks of training in the opulent but oppressive 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 just how far she’s willing to go for justice and revenge.’
I’ve finally read this book after hearing about it for months. And I’m just going to start by saying it definitely lives up to the hype. Girls of Paper and Fire is such a fresh and original fantasy story. Through this story Ngan deals with extremely complex and traumatising topics such as sexual assault, with the sensitivity that these topics really should be given. Something that is sadly quite rare in fiction.
Ngan weaves together elements of fantasy, aspects of her Malaysian heritage, her own experiences and the experiences of women living in patriarchal societies to create a fantasy world that is immensely intriguing, albeit one I would rather not live in.
Told from the point of view of Lei, one of the paper girls brought to the Hidden Palace to be trained as a consort to the Demon King. The story follows her as she is forcibly taken from her childhood home, then as she begins to rebel against the Demon King and as she falls in love with one of the other paper girls. The narrative voice of Lei is incredibly compelling and had me rooting for her throughout the story.
Ngan’s storytelling also allows the nuanced feelings of the paper girls and other women living in this society to be clearly shown. Showing how the ways in which some of these women rebel are incredibly important even if its only small.
All in all I really loved this book and I can’t wait for the sequel to be released later this year.
Thanks for reading and let me know what you thought of Girls of Paper and Fire in the comments.