Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan- Review

Description – 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. – Goodreads

I received this book in October’s Fairyloot and tried to do the readalong with Fairyloot, however due to other commitments I was unable to continue it. However, no loss as I read this book in my own time and enjoyed it alot more

I just want to start by saying that this very much reminds me of memoirs of a geisha. A young girl with beautiful eyes is taken from her home to become a prize concubine for a man in power.

Lets start off by describing the different castes of people. Paper caste are humans with no demon (animal) features what so ever. These are the lowest of the castes and are looked down on by the others. They are looked at as slaves. Next there’s Steel caste, human’s but with a bit of demon feature, e.g. ears. The highest caste is Moon. These are people that are mainly demon, full face of a Ox for example and hoofed hands/feet. These work for the King. Lei works in her fathers herb shop. Since here mother was taken 7 years ago by the kings army it is just her, Baba (father) Tien (who is a Steel, part Lynx. She works in Baba’s shop) and Bao their dog. Lei has golden eyes which is extremely rare and even unheard about in Paper castes. Because of this she is thought to be lucky. One day they hear horns being sounded in the distance. General Yu (a Moon caste, Ox) and his army have came to the village to take Lei, due to the rumours, for the demon king.

I don’t know if its because modern times are ‘slightly’ better or that I know this used to happen (still does), but I found the ignorance in lesbianism and the acceptance of rape upsetting. I understand that the book was written in a era where this was the case and it was written brilliantly, i just don’t like it in general. I upsets me that its still the same in a lot of countries. Also the disregard of woman, they are seen as just pretty things to show off to others and use. When they have done their duty they are given away as gifts. The way Ngan has written the Demon King was cleverly done. She shows how good he is at manipulation. Acting sentimental and understanding, but if he doesn’t get what he wants, he will take it, including a girls innocence.

Now I apologise if the last part has made the book sound rather difficult to read but I can not recommend this book enough. I felt that this book/story could me much bigger. After meeting the rest of the paper girls at the palace I want to know more about them. Especially Wren (who I adored💛) and Aoki. There were so many characters that was introduced then almost forgotten about, yet I want to know more about them. Also Lei’s mother. We find out what’s happened to her but again, i need more.

In general, brilliant book, definitely a must read and hopefully there will be a sequel.

5/5 ⭐

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