Book Review: Girls of Paper and Fire

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Hi, friends! I know I have only posted a couple of times so far this month, but I’ve been super overwhelmed with everything lately and book blogging is the one thing not required of me right now, so I’ve been giving myself a little extra room to breath by only worrying with posting when I have the time for it. I’ve been attempting to at least maintain posting once a week until things settle down a bit, and I’ll try to get in extra posts here or there when I can! I’ve got tons of reviews to write for you all so hopefully I can get some of those done soon! Alright, let’s get into this one!

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Copy of Title_ Author_ Page Count_ Publish Date_ Publisher_ (4)Synopsis

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 demeaning. This year, there’s a ninth. And instead of paper, she’s made of fire. In this richly developed fantasy, Lei is a member of the Paper caste, the lowest and most persecuted class of people in Ikhara. She lives in a remote village with her father, where the decade-old trauma of watching her mother snatched by royal guards for an unknown fate still haunts her. Now, the guards are back and this time it’s Lei they’re after — the girl with the golden eyes whose rumored beauty has piqued the king’s interest. Over weeks of training in the opulent but oppressive palace, Lei and eight other girls learns the skills and charm that befit a king’s consort. There, she 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. Lei, still the wide-eyed country girl at heart, must decide how far she’s willing to go for justice and revenge.Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

Content/Trigger Warnings: Classism, Violence, Animal Cruelty, Sexual Slavery/Assault/Rape, Forced Prostitution, Bestiality (Kind of??)

Rating (3)

Girls of Paper and Fire (Girls of Paper and Fire, #1)I am so in love with how beautiful this cover is! Purple is my favorite color and this cover is just so perfect. Ugh.

To be frank with you all, this is not the type of book that I would usually bother to read at all. Fantasy is one of the genres I enjoy the least, but going into this, I wasn’t sure just how revolved around fantasy and magic this would be. I picked it up for two reasons: 1) the hype, and 2) the rumored f/f romance. I quickly discovered just how fantastical this read was going to be.

Inside Girls of Paper and Fire, there are three castes of beings:

  • ‘Paper’ – 100% human
  • ‘Steel’ – human with fairly minimal demonic characteristics
  • ‘Moon’ – Demon

In this story, paper castes are considered the lowest because they possess no demonic characteristics, and therefore hold no power. The three castes live among each other throughout different villages, but steel and moon castes look down on paper castes. Among the moon caste is the Demon King who takes the shape of a human-like bull. After a war that placed him (and his past family lineage) in control of the Ikhara, he takes 8 paper caste girls each year as his concubines. Some paper families who are slightly higher up the societal ladder view being the King’s Paper Girl as an honor, and they prepare their daughters to hopefully be picked from the time they are born. Others, however, like Lei and her family, view this as no more than an imprisonment, especially after her mother was taken by the King’s men some years ago.

Due to some unforeseen circumstances, Lei is taken to the palace to be the 9th Paper Girl– an unheard of thing. Though her beauty is sometimes described as more simple compared to some of the other girls, her eyes shine a beautiful, deep gold color, which ultimately ensures her spot in among the Paper Girls. While Lei does not want to be there, her family’s safety is threatened if she doesn’t comply, so she takes on the role.

Being a Paper Girl essentially means spending a year being a sexual partner to the Demon King, and then remaining in the palace afterwards to take on some other role suitable for paper women. However, many of the girls are not fully prepared for what this entails (and really, who could be?).

Though this book was so far from something I would normally enjoy and took me completely by surprise with it’s plot and content, I found myself really invested in Lei’s story from the very beginning. Natasha Ngan has a beautiful writing style that offers you beautifully detailed descriptions and dialogue with great syntax. I genuinely believe that my interest in the story would’ve been lost early on had the writing not pulled me into Lei’s journey the way that it did.

To be honest, a lot of the content in this book was extremely unsettling. Sex is a huge part of this story, and Ngan uses it to show how power is viewed in this society. Consent is hardly a variable for the Paper Girls, which is a huge part of Lei’s personal story. In this, beautiful, young human girls in Ikhara are valuable for nothing more than the Demon King’s sexual pleasure. It was honestly a hard thing for me to read about at times.

With that being said, reading from Lei’s POV gives you hope as a reader.

“We might be Paper Girls, easily torn and written upon. The very title we’re given suggests that we are blank, waiting to be filled. But what the Demon King and his court do not understand is that paper is flammable. And there is a fire catching among us.”

Since this book is a series and very easy to spoil, I don’t want to go too in depth into the action of the plot. However, I felt like the pacing and sequence of events was done very nicely, and I was rooting for Lei 100% of the time.

In addition to her resilience, her f/f love interest was a huge part of why I enjoyed the book so much. I hate that this isn’t actually advertised as sapphic book because I feel like it is such an important part of the story. While Lei’s situation is still dire and mixed with sexual violence, the added romance adds a little light to the story (though there are certainly times when it also raised the stakes).

I also really enjoyed getting to read another Asian Own Voices novel. I read this book right after reading the first Crazy Rich Asians installment, so I still felt very pulled into the culture and language.

Overall, this was a really worthwhile read. I feel weird calling it enjoyable because it was such a hard and unsettling novel at times, but it was written in a way that still makes it such a good book. I am really looking forward to seeing how the f/f relationship progresses and where the characters all are after the actions at the end of the story. If you enjoy high fantasy, f/f relationships, strong & resilient characters, and tackling hard topics, I’d definitely recommend this for you!

16 thoughts on “Book Review: Girls of Paper and Fire

  1. I know what you mean by not wanting to call it enjoyable, but I am glad that you… enjoyed the book. You know what I mean. I’m really glad that you mentioned that Ngan uses sex to display power, so that gives me a huge heads up on that. I don’t think I was getting that vibe when I first read the synopsis, or I may have just been reading this wrong. Your review was perfect!

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    1. I didn’t get that vibe at ALL when I read the blurb and I was not at allllll prepared for where the story goes! It’s a great book but definitely the type you have to prepare yourself for because some of it can be very jarring! I wish I’d done more research into it beforehand but then again I might not have picked it up at all if I had none about the role that sex plays in it! And even though it was so heavy at times, I don’t regret reading it at all. Knowing your tastes, I think you’d really like the writing and the plot behind the castes!

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    1. Yes, this was the first! I think the second one is coming out sometime in November although I’ve seen a lot of people reading the ARC of it already. I’d definitely consider this one carefully because although it’s got great writing and really interesting fantastical plot lines, it can be a lot of unsettling content! Before I finished this one, I was thinking that I might not continue with the series, but the cliff hanger at the end of this gives you hope for a much different storyline in the next book!

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  2. Can I just say that you incorporate different text sizes in your posts so well? You do it way better than I ever could! Unfortunately, I think you enjoyed this more than I did :(( Like, I could see the merit of this book because of its themes and representation. The writing was also really beautiful. But I just didn’t really care about the characters the plot?? ahhh, I hate it when I feel like this! I honestly would’ve been fine with this book being a standalone though! If the epilogue didn’t happen, the ending would’ve been the perfect way to end a book!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Don’t be so silly Caitlin, you’re literally the one who taught me how to incorporate different text sizes!! I took all my cues from you! As for the book, I definitely understand because I feel like this is the kind of plot that if you’re not immediately invested, you might just… never be? If that makes sense. The writing was really what pulled me in and I think that if I hadn’t like Ngan’s writing style, I wouldn’t have ever gotten so invested in the characters and would’ve felt the read was just average overall. So I understand exactly what you mean! I 100% think that this could’ve been a great standalone!! Since I’m not generally huge on fantasy and even less interested in books with lots of battling, I’m unsure of how much I’ll like the second due to where I feel like the story line is headed. I’m gonna give it a chance though and hope that I enjoy it just as much!

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  3. I’ve been wanting to read this for a while, mainly because the cover is GORGEOUS! 💙 but it sounds WAY more intense than I had thought it would be. Thanks for the heads up! I think I’ll give it a try anyway since you, kind of?, enjoyed it anyway. Great review! 👏 Jen

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Right, the cover is so pretty!? I got a copy from the library but now that I’ve read it and seen the cover, I feel like I really need to buy my own copy for my shelves! But yes, this is definitely more intense than I had anticipated, but I think if it’s something you think you’re up for, it can be a really worthwhile read! I believe the second book might steer away from some of the more upsetting sexual content, but I’m not entirely sure. I just kind of got that vibe from the ending of this one that things might be a little different in the next book. I’m hoping, anyways! I hope that if you do pick this up that you like it! Thank you ♥

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