Book Review: Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan (4/5)

34433755Each 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.

When I read the dust jacket, I expected a razor-sharp fantasy full of prickly sexual tension and intrigue. Well, this book had…some of those. Girls was a lot more of a romance that I anticipated. Lei was kind of boring. She felt so…typical, I guess.

We never get the action-packed adventure. We’re stuck in the Paper House, amid a flurry of teenage-girl drama and pressure.

There were several things that just rubbed me the wrong way:

  • Blue. WHY? Why does she even exist? She’s the stereotypical mean girl.
  • BAU (Just in case you haven’t read this book, Bau is a doggie. He is impaled in the second chapter of the book.
  • Rape as a plot device (This isn’t on here for the reason you think. I knew going into the book there would be sexual assault. I didn’t like how it was essentially side-lined to make room for Lei and Wren to get romantic.)
  • Lei and Wren became very close very fast – Insta-romance fast. I would have liked more of a build up.
  • The constant furry vibes.

But, there were things that I liked:

  • Aoki. This character had so much potential, and she was so…realistic. She is a victim of the same situation the other girls are in, but she had fallen into the illusion that the man abusing her actually cares for her. This character is so important.
  • Lei’s discovery of her sexuality. This happened so organically. From the way other girls are described, to the way she acts around the king when it’s “her turn.”
  • The writing is excellent.
  • The constant furry vibes – yes, this is also a thing I liked. Let me explain: I hate furries. They creep me out. So when Lei got the heebie-jeebies from the King, I got major heebie-jeebies.

So… I guess there were more things I didn’t like that I liked, yet I still enjoyed this book. Will I be picking up the sequel? Meh. Probably.

Overall, Girls of Paper and Fire gets 4 snicker-doodles out of 5.

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