Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

Title: Girls of Paper and Fire
Author: Natasha Ngan
Published: November 6th 2018 by Jimmy Patterson Books

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.

Girls of Paper and Fire is a very unique and interesting story. I loved the world building but I struggled a little with the main character.

I thought the world and the world building for the story were amazing. As much as I didn’t not love what being a Paper Girl meant. I felt like I had a really good grasp on what the palace looked like in my mind. I also felt like the politics were easy to follow as well. Between the different cast of Paper, Steel and Moon.

So I for some reason had a really hard time picturing the Demon people. I kept thinking of the Disney version of Robin Hood. So the idea of her being a concubine for one, seemed even creepier. The book deals with prostitution and rape. There are some scenes that definitely make your heart bleed.

I couldn’t connect with Lei and I wanted to, especially because I loved Wren so much. I kind of started to want Wren to be the main MC though. There are things I liked about Lei. I understood that she was naive in the way of many things and now had to come to the palace and be thrust into something she doesn’t fully understand. How she had never really experienced certain feelings simply because she never really had the chance/exposure to do so. She was content working in her families herb shop and would eventually get around to it. As she continues on in the palace though, I felt like she doesn’t grow or change. Her naivety starts to put people in danger and that’s what bothers me. I know the things she does are not always intentional but I don’t like how she doesn’t always seem to learn from them. I do like the fact that Lei is loyal and kind. That even though she might not agree or understand with a certain friends feelings, she is still a friend to her. I can’t really put my finger on why I didn’t connect with Lei but I just couldn’t.

I loved Wren. I thought she is such a cool character and I want to be friends with her. I love how she has the fierceness to her but she also very understanding. She grew up in a different world and so she sees things in a different light than Lei. So it gives her this perfect balance for the two of them.

Aoki and Blue are too other characters that I really enjoyed. They are both complicated in their own ways. They have different reasons for being at the palace and different feelings about it. I felt both of their stories were interesting.

Despite my mixed feelings on Lei, I did really enjoy the romance. It was such a natural progression into it. Sweet and kind with both give and take.

The story is definitely unique and interesting and I love the vivid imagery it creates in my mind.