Title: Girls of Paper and Fire
Author: Natasha Ngan
Publisher: Jimmy Patterson Books
Review Copy: Library
Availability: Available now
Summary: 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.
Review: Fall of 2018 was pretty darn exciting, when it came to my reading list. Several (aka more than one!) queer YA books came out in the fall, and it felt like an embarrassment of riches at the time. Of course, I had to get ahold of Girls of Paper and Fire to read. First of all, because look at that gorgeous cover! Second of all, queer YA, obviously. Third of all, I just love fantasy.
Girls of Paper and Fire did not disappoint. It’s an intense story of love, survival, and trauma in an intricately built up fantasy world. The book follows Lei, a golden-eyed girl selected to be part of the cruel king’s chosen Paper Girls. Within the palace, she must do what it takes to survive, all while being pulled into a conspiracy and a romance that threatens and defines her very existence.
And now I’m going to take the chance to say — please, please pay attention to the trigger warning for violence and sexual abuse. This is a book that doesn’t skirt around these things, and the warning shouldn’t be ignored.
The book is a worthy and intense read. I read it in one sitting, and was completely drawn into Lei’s world and her fight for survival. It’s a book that doesn’t pull its punches, storywise. If you’re looking for a queer fantasy book with lush, detailed worldbuilding, you’ve come to the right place.
Recommendation: Get it soon! (Please note the trigger warnings in the description.)