Welcome back to Reading, Reading, Reading!
I have been in a slight reading hiatus, as I have had a ton of midterms projects/tests that have all been due over the last week and a half. While I started “Girls of Paper and Fire” by Natasha Ngan on November 1, I finished it just yesterday on November 11. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy it (believe me… I DID!), but I was just too busy to find much time to sit down and read. Thankfully, I spent a few hours reading the majority of this book yesterday evening! If you haven’t head of “Girls of Paper and Fire” and are active on either BookTube, Bookstagram, or the Book Blogosphere, you must have been living under a rock! I have heard SO MUCH HYPE around this book, so I went into it with high expectations.
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.
Even though I haven’t read much fantasy in the past few years, I have been craving it lately, and this book surely satisfied that! While it didn’t live up to my highest expectations, I still ended up really enjoying it. In my opinion, there were two things that stood out to me. One, the characters, and two, the depth and complexity of the world building.
I absolutely loved all of the characters in this book. Lei, Wren, Chenna, Aoki, the twins, and even Blue, were some of the best characters I have read about in a fantasy novel in quite some time, and I loved reading about them/their conversations with Lei. At first I thought that the amount of characters would be confusing and hard to keep track of, but Natasha wrote them very well and made it easy for readers to understand which character was which based on their characteristics/attributes. I would have loved to have read more about Lei’s parents and her past with her Mother. I feel like that would have made the book a lot more interesting, but I understand why her family members weren’t as involved as I would have liked, since that would have undermined the storyline of keeping them safe by Lei being a “Paper Girl”. Lei was a really great character and narrator to read her perspective from. She was not hypnotized by the title of being a “Paper Girl” and did not conform to the “Paper Girl” norms. While I really loved the characters, I thought there was a slight lack of character development for all characters expect Lei, Wren, and Aoki. They all seemed to stick to the name line throughout the whole novel, and I would have loved for a few more of them to develop.
The world building and imagery related to the setting was written so beautifully. I was blown away by the writing in this book and the descriptions of the different settings. The visuals that were provided for the authentic and traditional clothing they wore were also written very well, and made it easy for readers to understand. I really enjoyed reading about events that took place inside the “Women’s Court”, since that acted like their home and safe space away from the king and the outside world. I would have enjoyed reading more about the palace/kingdom that the “Women’s Court” was in, since I think we would have learned more history about how the kingdom once was, versus how it is now.
The overall concept of this book was not like anything I have ever read before. The short synopsis barely gave anything away, which was crucial for the flow of the real story. Unfortunately, I watched a detailed non-spoiler book review right before I read this book, which spoiled me on some of the themes that were in this book that I was not expecting. However, that did not spoil my overall enjoyment while reading the book, and I was still surprised by some of the events that occurred near the ending.
The main thing I really didn’t enjoy in this book was the plot twists. I found a lot of them very predictable, and non of them shocked me as much as I was hoping. I think there was a lot of unnecessary foreshadowing in this book, that allowed me to predict things that should have come out in surprise. That being said, the final plot twist written in the epilogue of the book shocked the ___ out of me, and made me that much more excited for the sequel.
I typically like to rate books that are firsts in a series by whether I enjoyed them or not, and whether or not I would want to continue the series. After reading and completing “Girls of Paper and Fire”, I definitely want to continue reading this series and am anticipating the next book!
Overall, I really enjoyed “Girls of Paper and Fire” by Natasha Ngan and gave it 4/5 stars.
Thanks to Hatchette Book Group for sending me an ARC!
Thank you for reading my review of “Girls of Paper and Fire” by Natasha Ngan! To read my initial thoughts while reading the book, click here. Have you read this book yet? Let me know in the comments, I’d love to read your thoughts!
Good Night Book Owls!