Girls of Paper and Fire

Girls of Paper and Fire

Book - 2018
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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 she's made of fire. Lei is a member of the lowest and most oppressed class in Ikhara. She's forced to go with the royal guards after her golden eyes pique the king's interest. Forced to learn the skills and charm that befit being a king's consort, Lei does the unthinkable-- she falls in love. As an explosive plot threatens the very foundation of Ikhara, Lei must decide just how far she's willing to go for justice and revenge. -- adapted from jacket.
Publisher: New York : JIMMY Patterson Books, Little, Brown and Company, 2018
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780316561365
0316561363
9780316452205
0316452203
Characteristics: 385 pages : map ; 24 cm

Opinion

From Library Staff

This exciting, fast-paced novel will grip you from beginning to end and leave you waiting on the edge of your seat for a sequel. The story takes place in a unique fantasy world with Southeast Asian cultural influences that is ruled by a strict caste system based on how much demon blood runs in a ... Read More »


From the critics


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m
minhanhp04
Aug 18, 2020

In a world where many people are demons and those without special features referred to as “paper,” fear and conflict ravages the nation. Destruction and disasters ravage the nation, but despite this, 8 Paper Girls are selected every year to be concubines for the Demon King. Lei is paper, but she has the unique golden eyes that are thought to be blessed by the gods. When Lei is torn away from her family to become a Paper Girl, she is launched into a completely different world where she learns to be a member of the court. However, she hates the idea of being held down by something that she cannot control, and struggles to find her own freedom and discover love. Girls of Paper and Fire is a well-woven tale that features determination and freedom. It also ties in a historical element as well as suspense. Even though I don’t typically read fantasy, I found this book really enjoyable and am looking forward to reading the second book!

Reread December 2019: This was just as good the second time around. I so enjoy this world and how absolutely badass and wonderful Lei and Wren are. Stoked to dive into the sequel!

Original review:

A wlw romance, a startlingly original fantasy world, and a fiery protagonist who is sassy, strong, and wonderful. What more could I have ever asked for. Christmas came early for me in the form of this book and I am so fiercely happy about the existence of this book in the world.

Girls of Paper and Fire follows Lei, a girl from the relatively quiet province of Xienzo who is ripped from her family in order to become a Paper Girl for the king. The Demon King. Because there are three castes in this world, basically consisting of people (Paper), demons (Moon), and a mixture of the two (Steel). Paper is lowest on the fictional totem pole, and Moon is highest, and the King keeps his Paper Girls to satisfy his...urges?...and show his strength, solidify alliances, and just generally be a terrible human. The book takes place over the course of Lei's months at the palace, and let me tell you, taking this ride with her is extraordinary.

All of the Paper Girls are wonderfully diverse with personalities that jump off the page. Aoki goes through this development that makes me want to hug her so tight and never let her go, and she's not even one of the MC's. Wren is a dream, a warrior girl with a tender heart and a beautiful soul, and I would die for her. Her and Lei together is absolute perfection. I almost never feel this strongly about hetero fictional relationships but the connection between them was just so authentic and beautiful and it felt so real. Ugh I'm crying I NEED MORE OF THEM. Also need them to grow old together and be happy and live on a farm with a lot of dogs ok thanks.

And the Demon King. It's so easy with these kinds of dark males to pull an Aoki and make readers fall in love with them despite their shitty behaviour. And *spoilers ahead* the fact that Natasha didn't do this makes me SO HAPPY. I hated the bastard until the very end, even with the penchant for villains that I have. And to me, that is a mark of a solid character, and a talented, committed writer.

Another thing I loved about this was the originality of the world. Demons who take on animal forms and present as half-human, half-whatever animal they may be? SO COOL. It was somewhat hard to picture, especially with the Demon King - the icy blue eyes kind of threw me off - but I still just thought that the history and the lore were spot-on and very intriguing. I can't wait to see what happens with the world as the series progresses.

LoganLib_Kirra Mar 08, 2020

Girls of Paper and Fire is a captivating book that I read pretty much from start to finish in one day. The beautiful cover definitely ignited my fire to read this book but I was drawn into the plot with the idea of these girls, some from the lowest ranks, becoming consorts to the king. It reminded me of some other great fantasy books I had read such as The Jewel, Three Dark Crowns, and The Cerulean.

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FrankieDay419
Feb 04, 2020

I’ve been on a sort of queer YA fantasy kick as of late (this will be my fourth one in a row), and I was pleasantly surprised to stumble onto this title from Natasha Ngan, a queer YA fantasy novel set in a pseudo-Asian setting, which I really appreciated. This was a really good book, that though it gets off to a rocky start, draws you in with its rich characters, fascinating setting and exciting storyline.

The story is centered on Lei, a girl who lives a peaceful life in a small village with her father, and who is thrust into the middle of political intrigue far beyond her years. She is taken from her home to become a “Paper Girl”, which basically means that she is to become a courtesan for the King for one year. Lei, of course, resists, and during the course of the novel, she goes through her own heroic journey. Along the way she makes friends, and learns about her own potential for greatness. She also falls in love.

The group are called Paper Girls because they are from the lowest caste in this society, one made up of pure humans. There are two castes above Paper, Steel and Demon, with the highest made up of animal/human hybrids with their animal features emphasized, while the middle caste (Steel) are the animal/human hybrids with more human features. This was a very interesting idea, and makes for some dramatic tension between the groups. Lei has lived with a steel caste person for all of her life, but demon castes are seen as unfamiliar and dangerous to her. There is a pretty end depth backstory that goes into the castes and why they are seperated the way they are, and as a person who appreciates a good and detailed universe, I thought this was very well done.

I really enjoyed the romance between Lei and her love interest (not going to say who exactly to avoid spoilers). It was a lesbian romance, and so well told, I just loved it! The characters only seemed to enhance each other and make each other stronger, which is what a relationship should do. It was just really nice to read about a nice, well written romance between two female characters that doesn’t feel like it’s ham fisted or fraught with all of the tired tropes that you see in some other books. Though, of course, the environment in YA fantasy (and adult fantasy) have gotten way more accepting, and open, and there have even been instances of queer authors writing queer characters, so I think we’re only going to see better and better representation as time goes on.

I have read some other reviews and noticed that people have complaints about the pan-Asian-ness of this novel. I can see that, but I think that the author has made very specific choices to try to create a universe that is inhabited by all types of people, though there is a seperation of the cultures. It seems that this novel is set in a universe that has touches of east and west Asia, China, Japan, Korea, India, etc, and I truly believe that it only serves to enrich the story.

I would like to mention that the spectre of sexual assault looms large over this book. Many of the queer YA fantasy novels that I’ve read recently don’t have that, so it was a little jarring to be thrown headlong back into that sort of thinking. Because Lei becomes a type of concubine, it is pretty central to the story, and impossible to avoid even from the first few pages. Would there have been a better way to manage the story without including that particular danger? I’m not sure. But, it was included, and that is what it is.

Overall, I thought this was a terrific book that, while rocky at certain spots, has a terrific story, interesting universe, and fun, fascinating characters. I’d recommend it to anyone who’d like a fun female fronted fantasy, with strong female characters, and a rich, vibrant backstory. The sequel, Girls of Storm and Shadow is out now, so I will be reading it as soon as possible!

VaughanPLShelly Dec 04, 2019

I am not usually a huge fan of fantasy but the world-building and characters in this series are phenomenal. The plot does lag a little in terms of action but this book makes up for it with great characters and a fast-paced sequel. I highly recommend this series for fantasy fans or for those who want to go outside their genre comfort zone.

c
charliej6294
Oct 08, 2019

Absolutely adored this book. LGBTQIA+ representation was amazing, the love between the two women characters shone a light through the darker themes and intense story line.

The world building was unique and reminiscent of the author's Asian heritage. The characters were empathetic, determined and dynamic. The plot was suspenseful and engrossing. I'm eager to know if there's a sequel and to read whatever else Ngan has to offer :)

h
hmc20063
Aug 17, 2019

I thought the book was truly amazing. It kinda explained what could happen in the real world. As well most books with secret romance are boy and girl. I love that the it was a girl and girl. I hope other people like it as much as me.

m
meganschwindler
Aug 09, 2019

I did not love this book. The dialogue was truly terrible and all of the characters were one-dimensional. Readers feel sympathy for the main protagonist but can't connect with her on a deeper level. Overall the plot was interesting, I just don't think it was executed well.

s
Suzane1994
Jul 11, 2019

Ok, so this book is pretty good; from the world building to the way the words flow on paper and they're easy to follow along. But as must as I liked it, there are a few things I couldn't get past, I went into it thinking that it was going to be an incredibly dark book but to my surprise, it wasn't as dark as I thought it would be(might just be because I'm incredibly messed up by nature). The way the characters are made are great, you love some, hate some and can actually sympathize with some but for some reason I kept finding that the way the author would tackle abuse would be to sweep it under the rug, like after a horrible night, the next day, after talking to the abused, the women would still act as if nothing happened and go about their day normally. Granted that's reality to other but I still think it could have been dealt with a bit better in my opinion. Other than that, I think it's a decent book and hopefully the next installments will be a LOT better!! *fingers crossed*

j
jodoyle
May 06, 2019

First of all, I’m gonna call bs on that epilogue.
Overall the story was interesting. I just didn’t connect well with it. I’m sure that was at least in part because of the woman who read it. Perhaps in the future I’ll reread it without listening, and my impression will change.

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Age

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m
minhanhp04
Aug 18, 2020

minhanhp04 thinks this title is suitable for 15 years and over

c
charliej6294
Oct 08, 2019

charliej6294 thinks this title is suitable for 15 years and over

a
AliceInWonderbread
Sep 09, 2019

AliceInWonderbread thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over

b
bezoarbezoarbezoar
Jun 13, 2019

bezoarbezoarbezoar thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and over

e
etanesnil_4488
Dec 18, 2018

etanesnil_4488 thinks this title is suitable for 15 years and over

Notices

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c
charliej6294
Oct 08, 2019

Frightening or Intense Scenes: Contains themes of sexual assault and violence. Scenes are not explicit in detail however the themes are central to the plot line.

c
charliej6294
Oct 08, 2019

Sexual Content: Contains themes of sexual assault and violence. Scenes are not explicit in detail however the themes are central to the plot line.

c
charliej6294
Oct 08, 2019

Violence: Contains themes of sexual assault and violence. Scenes are not explicit in detail however the themes are central to the plot line.

a
AliceInWonderbread
Sep 21, 2019

Violence: Includes mentions of sexual abuse.

a
AliceInWonderbread
Sep 21, 2019

Sexual Content: Includes mentions of sexual abuse, and adult themes.

Quotes

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We might be Paper Girls, easily torn and written upon. The very title we're given suggests that we are blank, waiting to be filled. But what the Demon King and his court do not understand is that paper is flammable.

And there is a fire catching among us.

a
AliceInWonderbread
Sep 20, 2019

“When the world denies you choices... you make your own”
― Natasha Ngan, Girls of Paper and Fire

Summary

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e
etanesnil_4488
Dec 18, 2018

"The citizens of Ikhara comprise three castes: the oppressed, fully human “Paper” class; “Steel,” a human-animal mash-up; and the reigning “Moon” caste, made up of anthropomorphic animals called demons. Every year, the Moon caste’s king claims eight “Paper Girls” as concubines. It’s an alleged honor, but when the military collects golden-eyed, 17-year-old Lei from her family’s herbal medicine shop, she’s devastated. Her father will suffer if she resists, however, and she wonders about finding her mother, also taken, so Lei relocates to the ruler’s Hidden Palace. Although she dreads being summoned to the brutal king’s bedroom, Lei finds comfort in the friendship of her fellow courtesans—particularly the secretive Wren, with whom she falls in love. Ngan’s plot is tense and tight, her action sequences are elegant and adrenaline-soaked, and her story’s stakes increase exponentially through the pulse-pounding conclusion. She champions self-empowerment while condemning classism, homophobia, and the commodification of women." - From Publishers Weekly

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