Girls of Paper and Fire drew me in with the incredibly beautiful art on the cover. I know I shouldn’t really judge books by their covers, but I do. Then I read the plot of the book and I instantly had to read it. Now, Girls of Paper and Fire is categorized as a young adult fantasy which is the genre that I normally read. However, I do want to note that there is a warning at the beginning of the book that the topics of sexual assault and abuse show up throughout the story. After reading it, there were parts that were clear of what was going on, but nothing to me seemed very graphic. I was a little uncomfortable reading certain scenes, but I leave that judgement up to you on what you are comfortable reading.
Every year the king has eight girls chosen to become Paper Girls. Being a Paper Girl is considered a very high honor in the kingdom, but it is also the most degrading. A ninth girl has been chosen this year. She is not made of paper, but has a fire burning within.
There are three different castes in Ikhara, and Lei belongs to lowest of them: Paper. In an isolated village, living with her father, Lei is tormented from witnessing her mother be taken away by royal guards a decade ago. Now, Lei is the one that the guards have come for. The king’s interest in the girl with the golden eyes has been piqued.
To learn the skills and charm that are required of a king’s consort, Lei and the other girls spend weeks training at the oppressive palace. Then the unthinkable happens, Lei falls in love. This love is forbidden and plunges Lei into a scheme that threatens her world as she knows it. Now Lei must decide how far she is willing to go for justice and revenge.
To start, I want to say that I absolutely loved Girls of Paper and Fire. However, the story was nothing of what I expected. When reading the plot of the book, I was already intrigued and excited to dive in. What I didn’t expect was the amount of fantasy that was in the story. The three castes are the Moon caste – demons, Steel caste – half-demons, and the lowest caste is Paper – humans. This was a happy surprise because I love fantasy and when fantasy and reality collide.
There is also a lot of diversity in Girls of Paper and Fire. The author, Natasha Ngan, comes from a multicultural background and this book reflects her Chinese side. Though focusing primarily on Chinese culture, the characters exhibit different backgrounds, upbringings, body types, skin color, ages, ideology, and sexuality. These traits mostly apply to the nine Paper Girls since they are the main characters. Now there is a lot of diversity with the other characters as well. Since they are demons and half-demons, offering more options of diversity.
I won’t to go further into characters or the story since the plot made me to want to read it. The unexpectedness of the story made reading Girls of Paper and Fire that much more enjoyable for me. However, I want to touch on the warning given at the beginning of the book, the theme of sexual assault. I didn’t know this when I bought the book. While reading I did make sure to pay extra attention to these parts so I could accurately review them. In a majority of the scenes, there are just hints of sexual assault. A few of the scenes are more obvious, but there are no details of the actual act. Therefore there are no graphic scenes of sexual assault.
Please take caution before reading/recommending this book if the topic of sexual assault or abuse is a sensitive one for you.
“I don’t want an easy life. I want a meaningful one.”
“Fire in, fear out.”
“When the world denies you choices, you make your own.”
“Because if this is to be my fate, I’m going to walk boldly into it on my own two feet.”
Star Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5
Add it to Your List: Add to your Goodreads
Snag a Copy: I will always suggest getting the hard cover, but buy in any format on Amazon
Interested in other books that I’ve read? Check out my other book reviews here!