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.
Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan
Publisher: Jimmy Patterson Books
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Publication Date: November 6th, 2018
I know what it means to dream about the past.
To dream about things you have loved, and lost.
Some books entrance you with their devastatingly gorgeous, lush, and magical prose, transporting you to a whole new world with the magnificent imagery they weave, leaving you spellbound, and speechless.
Some books draw you in with characters so full of heart and soul that you feel as if you’re living their stories, leaving you helpless to do anything else but fall in love with them irrevocably.
And very seldom, but every once in a while, all the stars line up, and you find a book that does both—and it’s as if a small piece of your heart that you’ve always felt was missing finds its way to you, cloaked in feelings that can’t quite be articulated, but are experienced all the more deeply.
Girls of Paper and Fire is a book that gradually wound its way into my heart, and has since nestled itself snugly in a corner, radiating light and happiness, whenever I find myself reminiscing about it, even despite the heavy subject matters it incloses.
Remember, even that which seems impossible at first can be overcome by strength of mind and heart.
It tells a story of girls who are chosen as concubines for a powerful king, some more, and some less willing to serve him, some with ulterior motives, and some merely acquiescing in their servitude to preserve their lives, and that of their loved ones.
And at the heart of it all, two girls who find themselves slowly falling in love with each other, as they navigate their way through a world wrought with distrust and suspicion, and faced with the impossible question—what are they willing to sacrifice for their love, and just how much are they willing to endure before they fight back?
The characters in this novel are so intricately crafted, and their layers, as well as their motives, are masterfully unveiled, bit by bit—and even though the plot unfolds at an at times tantalizingly slow pace, something special about it always managed to pull me back in.
I found myself pausing after every few paragraphs just to savor the startlingly beautiful prose that tastes like warm honey, sweetly melting on your tongue.
Understanding arrives then the way twilight falls: instantaneously. Just a blink, a skip in time, leaving only the before and the after, and the inescapable ripples of change.
Girls of Paper and Fire touches upon so many important themes, examines all-too familiar issues with sharp wit and sensitivity, and stands out with its powerful examination of identity, self-empowerment, and faith—in yourself, as well as others.
It’s a portrait illustrating the importance of love, and friendship, and showing us that it’s possible to reclaim your power, and offer opposition to oppression.
When the world denies you choices, you make your own.
Even while I was reading it, I was filled with a deep-seated, glowing happiness that made my heart warm, and with the knowledge that, no matter how hard I try, my words simply won’t be able to capture all the ways in which merely thinking of it makes me feel lighter, and all my surroundings appear just a little brighter.
Out of the two-hundred and twenty-three books I’ve read this year, Girls of Paper and Fire will be remembered by me as one of the most beautifully written ones—and the one that will stay with me for a very long time.
(…) I don’t want an easy life. I want a meaningful one.
The quotes above were taken from an ARC, and are subject to change upon publication.
GIRLS OF PAPER AND FIRE’s Aesthetics Board,
created by Natasha Ngan
Excerpt from the official playlist for GIRLS OF PAPER AND FIRE 🎶
Better in the Dark by Say Lou Lou
Landslide by Oh Wonder
Goodbye, Goodbye by Tegan and Sara
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