Review: Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan
Published in 2018 by JIMMY Patterson Books, Little Brown
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.”
This book had me on the edge of my seat from the first page to the last. It’s the perfect pick for anyone who loves a mix of fantasy and romance. Natasha Ngan has a fresh voice that is easy to follow yet full of power and humor.
I especially enjoyed the unique themes in this book, which include LGBTQ relationships and rape. Because of these topics, this book may be hard for some readers, but is definitely worth the read. Ngan has taken a huge responsibility in writing about such difficult topics, and I applaud her for her bravery and grace in doing so. It is so important for young adults to be able to explore topics such as these in books, where they are free of harm or consequences. Hopefully, writers like Ngan will continue to push us into a direction where difficult topics can be explored without judgement or prejudice.
I loved learning all about Asian culture in this book. Though it is set in a dystopian society, Ngan based much of the setting and societal norms on her own Asian heritage. This element added a fresh perspective to the traditional dystopian setting, one which I think is much needed in the YA genre. This book offers wonderful commentary on class and the roles of women in society in a world that readers will be eager to explore.
My only qualm with this book is the pacing of the plot line, which has a pretty quick set up, a very long middle struggle, and an even quicker ending and cliffhanger. I would have liked a longer set up and ending with a shorter midsection to break them up. Despite this, I still found the characters alone worth the read, especially the protagonist, Lei.
Lei’s character is fierce and loyal. I felt immediately connected to her powerful narration, and she took me on a roller coaster of emotions throughout this novel. With a plot line so unique, readers are instantly carried deep into Lei’s world. All in all, this was a wonderful read. I look forward to reading the rest of Natasha Ngan’s work.
“Girls of Paper and Fire” is available for purchase on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. It is the first book in a trilogy. Its sequel, “Girls of Storm and Shadow”, is scheduled to be published on November 5, 2019.