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What: Girls of Paper and Fire (Girls of Paper and Fire #1) by Natasha Ngan

Who: Hodder & Stoughton

When: November 6th 2018

How: A copy of this novel was provided by Hachette Australia for review.

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.

Presented by James Patterson, Natasha Ngan’s lyrical, searing, visceral fantasy, Girls of Paper and Fire, will remind us how precious freedom is–and the price we must pay to achieve it.

I think Girls of Paper and Fire was one of my most anticipated reads of 2018. A queer Asian girl at the helm of a YA fantasy? That’s something to be excited about. Also, the premise sounded amazing and That Cover.

Even though Girls of Paper and Fire probably won’t be making it to my favourite reads of 2018 list that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a good book. It was. There were just two things that I felt really hindered my enjoyment of it, and here they are:

1) The romance

On the one hand, I really did like the romance. I loved Lei and Wren together, I thought they made a beautiful couple and the way they supported each other was so soft. However, I really feel like they didn’t get to know each other very well. As a reader everything Lei knows about Wren you know about Wren. And to be honest, that’s not a lot. You know her past, and a little about her present, but as for who Wren is as a person… well, there was a lot to be desired. I wanted to know more about her. I wanted to know enough about her so it would make sense that Lei fell in love with her so quickly. I wanted the epic romance to have an epic beginning, middle, and end. So even though I did like the Wren/Lei endgame, I wanted to be more convinced of their love from the very beginning. And I think having more character development for Wren would have been a huge aid in that.

2) Lei’s passivity

From the moment Lei was taken, she was almost immediately resigned to her fate. She made one singular attempt at getting away, and then she kind of settled into the fact that she was going to be a Paper Girl. I kept on waiting for her to rail against the system and fight back but it never really came. She went to her lessons and she dressed up in her fancy dresses. Only a handful of times did she do anything about her situation, and even then most of it was at the end.

I know that Lei’s situation was an impossible one, but even in her internal monologues and reflections she seemed non-resistant to the fact that all her autonomy had been taken away – not just her bodily autonomy, which she did focus on, but all her autonomy as a person. Even when she was going along with all her lessons and meals and everything else it never felt like she was doing it because she had a plan to execute and had to fly under the radar. She was just doing them all because she had to. I guess I just wanted a little more fight from Lei because she had the potential but too much of the novel was Lei settling in to palace life as a Paper Girl and not enough of it was focused on her wanting to take back control of her life.

~

So those are the two reasons why I didn’t fall in love with Girls of Paper and Fire. I felt both aspects really impacted the story for me because I wanted to fall in love with Lei and Wren’s love and I also wanted Lei to show up for herself more than she did.

There were, however, many aspects I enjoyed about Girls of Paper and Fire, like the world building, the demon lore, the examination of rape and sexual assault and their effects on survivors, and the fact that this novel was about girls in all their imperfections. I will most certainly be continuing the series as I’m invested in Lei’s journey now, and I think the things that were missing for me in this book will show up full force in the sequel.

© 2018, Chiara @ Books for a Delicate Eternity. All rights reserved.

trigger warning

graphic animal death, torture, slavery, rape (off page), sexual assault, kidnapping, hostage situation, multiple murders, racism (fantasy context), use of ableist language, fire, reference to death of mother, forced sex work, non-consensual invasive medical examination, physical assault, reference to death of family, war themes

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Posted on: November 13, 2018 • By: Chiara

14 Responses to Two Reasons Why I Didn’t Love Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

  1. Rebecca says:

    Aw, shame you didn’t love this. It sounded truly unique and I’ve heard pretty good things so far. I hope you enjoy the sequel more, will be interested to see what you think about the next instalment!

  2. This post is so refreshing! I’ve been seeing only wonderful things about this book for quite some time, so I like knowing the flaws. If I’m being honest, I have never had too much interest in the book. I haven’t been in the fantasy mood for a while now, and I don’t really want to start another series when I have so many others I’m still in progress with! Maybe one day I’ll read this book (the representation is really the only thing interesting me), but it’s not on my shortlist.

    Genni @ Ready, Set, Read! Ready, Set, Read!

    • Chiara says:

      I’m glad you think so! And I definitely understand the hesitation when it comes to starting new series. I feel like I’m drowning in them, eep. The representation was definitely the main reason I read this book as I love to support diverse books. I guess you can’t love everything. I did enjoy it, though, and I hope you do if you ever read it, Genni!

    • Ava says:

      I think you should start reading it right now because I think the true romance with wren and lei is so touching and forbidden. It just makes it so right for them!

  3. I’ve heard of this, but I haven’t really seen many reviews for it yet. I’m glad you liked it enough to want to continue the story, but it sounds the issues you had would be things that would bother me too. If there’s a romance, you’re going to want to feel like you are getting to know BOTH people in the relationship. Hopefully that will show up more in the sequel though, like you said. And that is strange that Lei was so passive about her circumstances…

    -Lauren

    • Chiara says:

      I definitely enjoyed it enough to continue! I think the story will get more intense and badass, which I look forward to. It really was a shame that the love interest was so flat, but I think there might be room for development in the sequels. At least I hope there is! And yes, I did want a bit more from Lei in terms of resistance.

  4. Kelly says:

    The premise reminds me a little of The Belles but with a much lovelier romance.It was a shame Lei was so passive. You can understand her fear at not wanting to try to escape but surely her inner thoughts should have been of revolutions and the freedom from the oppression the girls were subjected to. Her life was not her own and I can’t imagine many young women would blindly accept being metaphorically caged. It sounds as though Wren needed a little more character development as an individual beyond her romance with Lei. I’m glad this was still a great read Chiara but saddened because it has so, so much potential as well. Absolutely beautiful review nonetheless darling ♡♡♡

    • Chiara says:

      I admit I did want some more fight from Lei, and I really feel like she had the potential because at times it was present but most of that was at the very end and only when she was forced to take control. I would have loved her to want that control, and to strive for it.

      Wren was lovely, but also very much a love interest. I really hope that the second book explores her as a character beyond what she can do for Lei’s own character.

      Thank you, lovely <3

  5. benish says:

    Hi! Hope you been well! I’m logging onto my blog after a year lol, we used to keep in touch on each others blogs, and I use instagram as my blog now. I’d love for us to keep in touch on there! The link is below.

    My blog used to be http://www.beenazai.blogspot.com previously Feminist Reflections :)

    x Benish @ IG@BumbleBeeHolic

    • Chiara says:

      Hi Benish! It’s so good to hear from you again :D I just tried to go to your IG, but the page said it couldn’t be found :( I would love to follow you so if you want to live a link feel free!

  6. Diana says:

    I think Lei being passive made her more relatable, though. We’re not all brave. I enjoyed watching her learn to overcome her fear and fight for herself, though I didn’t like her saying she only did it because of Wren.

    I understand their relationship was unfolding over the span of several months, but I agree that I wish we could have seen more of it, because it seemed a lot more like they fell into lust. I hope the second book spends more time on character building.

    • Chiara says:

      Fair enough! But I think if it had been a bravery thing then Lei should have also been more fearful, which she wasn’t. That’s why I mentioned it as passivity and not fear. Because I don’t think she was particularly fearful, either. She just went along with everything.

      The flow of time didn’t make it feel like months so I think that’s why we were left wanting more form the romance? It felt like a couple of weeks, at most! I really do hope there’s more relationship build up in the second book.

      Also, I took a look at your website and your creations are adorable!!

  7. Syd Charrise says:

    I just finished reading and I absolutely loved the book for its unique story line and exciting moments that made it into a real page-turner!! With that said, I agree with you wholeheartedly. I also felt like the opening of Lei’s pendant was such an anticlimactic moment. I was expecting her to have some sort of literal fire deep within her that was ignited by the events in last chapters, but sadly, I was quite disappointed with that aspect. She’s was pretty much the textbook definition of a damsel in distress.

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