By Natasha Ngan. Jimmy Patterson Books, 2018
Geek rate: Mortal worthy (3 out of 5 stars)
Mortal worthy (3 out of 5 stars): A unique read, and a special story with enough depth that will make it stand out. Natasha Ngan’s “Girls of Paper and Fire” is a brave take of our modern world woven into a mythical one as it delves into issues of what we as people are facing now. One thing that this book teaches us is that we need to make choices, as we look ahead to the future. What wind kind of world do you want to have?
“ When the world denies you choices, you make your own.”
The books I like more or less have characters living in a regular world, or as regular as it could be with the occasional myths and magic mixing with the story. However, Natasha Ngan’s “Girls of Paper and Fire” is next level, with talking beasts and humans as characters.
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 demeaning. This year, there’s a ninth. And instead of paper, she’s made of fire. Lei is a member of the Paper caste, the lowest and most persecuted class of people in Ikhara, the girl with the golden eyes whose rumored beauty has piqued the king’s interest to be one of his Paper Girls. Inside the palace, an explosive plot 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.
What makes this book intriguing is its premise. A young girl, a human (or Paper in the story’s caste system), will strike out against the prejudice and injustices perpetrated by the ruling beasts caste against those they deem lower than their kind. It is not a unique proposition but the story is wrapped in several Asian myths that the result is magical.
What made me read this book is the main character herself. It was intriguing how this little paper girl will rise to oppose the rule of a strong king. Her journey to become a paper girl is beguiling to say the least. Her story as she lives her new life in the palace is not that captivating. But the intrigue will keep readers glued until the end.
I’m not a fan of talking beasts and that prevented me from fully imagining them talk, let alone comprehending what they really look like. The Bull King’s story could be expanded much more (maybe Ngan will do that on the second book).
The other human characters could be developed further. Ngan focused too much with the story of Lei that the other characters didn’t have the time to shine. The huge number of characters is a challenge as well. By the time I was warming up with the other characters (especially Wren), the story is ending and I was left unsatisfied.
The Good Stuff
The actions in this book is captivating, especially in the last part. The build up to the plot against the king is also addicting, and the vast world created by Ngan stores a lot of promise. This is a unique read and those who stumble upon it will have no regrets meeting Lei and the other characters in the story. After the last page, you will simply beg to read the second book.
I find the savagery and the supposed prejudice against the humans somehow lacking. Instead of just talking about the things happening against the humans outside the walls, or discussing the history of oppression, Ngan could have just write scenes to hit the mark with this one. Like the scene inside the palace with the captured humans they turned into slaves. The history of Lei’s world was not laid out in a neat manner, thereby confusing the readers with, at times, so much information.
Book 2 of this series is entitled “Girls of Storm and Shadow” and is set to be released November 2019.