ARC Review: Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

Title: Girls of Paper and Fire (???)
Author: Natasha Ngan
Genre: Fantasy
Source: BookExpo 2018
Publisher: Jimmy Patterson Books
Publication Date: November 6th 2018

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.
Trigger Warning: Sexual Abuse and Violence

I want to start off saying that I met Natasha at BookExpo this year and she was the sweetest person I ever met with the cutest accent and it was amazing getting to meet her. Girls of Paper and Fire was nothing that I expected it to be and exceeded all of my expectations! 

In a world where there are three castes: Paper, fully human. Steel, partial animal-demon qualities. Moon, fully demon with whole animal features. Paper being the most frowned upon caste, Lei never expected to be swept out of her village town by a general bent on earning his title back and becoming the ninth Paper Girl. With reluctance Lei takes on her role as a Paper Girl to keep her father and friend safe. She goes to class, she goes to balls and when the time comes she will share a bed with the King of Ikhara just like the hundreds of Paper Girls before her have. But Lei doesn't want that, being a Paper Girl is something to be proud of but to Lei it's a prison sentence. But the unexpected happens when Lei falls in love with Wren, a fellow Paper Girl. Now with even more at stake will Lei be able to escape to hold of the king and live her life freely loving Wren or will the Paper Girl custom of Ikhara destroy her in the process? 

I adore Lei's character. In most YA fanatsies more often then not the female lead is very timid at first before becoming defiant. Lei is defiant from the moment she enters the general's carriage. She's witty and quick with her tongue, she had several moments where I snickered at something she said. I loved seeing the evolution of Lei's character from the start of the novel and as she began realizing her growing feelings for Wren. Even though their relationship was frowned upon for the fact they were only suppose to be loyal to the King and because they are both Paper Girls neither girl let that stop them and I loved that so much. Love grows from the most unlikely of places and from the most dire circumstances. 

The world building in Girls of Paper and Fire is astonishing. From the caste systems, to the customs within the palace and the kingdom Ngan gave readers a great sense of the world they are currently spending their time in. In the beginning of my ARC there was a guide on the castes and what they meant and a map of the palace which is beautifully done. I do wish magic took a little bit more place in this book, but it didn't ass or take away from the overall feel and setting of this novel. 

***Trigger Warning: I am going to talk a little about the sexual abuse in this paragraph. Please feel free to skip a head.***

In being a Paper Girl you are in service to the king. Each night he sends for a new girl to spend his night taking to his bed. Most of the girls are willing, its a great honor after all the be desired by the King but not for Lei. Lei is well into her relationship with Wren when the night arrives that the King sends for her. I wasn't sure what I expected in this part. I guess I assumed it was going to be brushed over but Ngan didn't brush over this part and for that I am entirely grateful. We see the emotional turmoil and Lei beg to not have to sleep with him. As a reader you see how little the King actually cares for Lei and more about his needs. Tears came to my eyes in this chapter, for this isn't just something that happens in novels but in the real world as well. In the chapter following her rape we see the aftermath of Lei's emotions and her determination on how she will never be forced into the Kings bed again. 

I sincerely hope that this is going to be a series since the epilogue suggests that there is going to be more. I'm so excited for this book to be out into the world and for everyone else to experience this gem of a book. Natasha Ngan will definitely being on my auto-buy/read author list for now on. 

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