Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan
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.
You can totally see I am going through my YALC pile of books witht eh reviews that I ahve been posting, right? Sorry! But I do want to cull what I want signed or not.
I’ve had this ARC for a bit and having heard good and bad things about it I wasn’t sure what to expect. There is animal abuse/death done to show how violent and ruthless they are, but otherwise there isn’t another scene of it. There is sexual assault/violence also. Just in case you need a few pointers.
The story is intriguing. I still want to know why Lei has golden eyes (one thing that is talked about in the book a lot but doesn’t have an explanation yet). But basically, she’s made a concubine for the king for a year and then she will serve the court. It’s meant to be an honour.
One of the things that confused me (a little spoiler here) is that we get told she is the ninth paper girl as if this is a huge feat, etc, but in truth for most of the book there’s only eight of them because one gets the boot immediately after they go through a “test” to see if they are exactly what they said they were. (Also, why do you do this test to see if their beauty is legitimate and not enchanted after you’ve chosen and “finalised”? Why not test just before you finalise so that you don’t have the embarassment of ditching one because she was cheating or whatever. Bugged me through the whole book).
And as per usual, you put a bunch of girls in the same space and there’s rivalry, gossip and some love happening. The story is interesting but Lei just seems to keep moving with the plot rather than actively being part of it (or rather she is part of the plot in as much as she is useful to it and she has to be the plot butotherwise she is just there at the right time for most things).
However I liked the worldbuilding and the stories that made the world for them. The idea of being more “animal” like giving you a higher status was interesting. I did wonder where the line between Steel and Moon castes would fit. As sometimes someone was Moon but they didn’t show as much animal parts but then others Steel had a lot of animal bits and it was a little confusing. Sounded like a fursona’s dream wrold thought.
In summary, it was entertaining and I want to read the next.