Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan – ⭐⭐⭐
Decently entertaining, though mostly predictable and at times not that driving in action. I’ll probably pick up the second one, but not in a huge hurry. Oddly enough, the notes and acknowledgements at the back are what changed my mind on that.
Recommended: for a spare-time casual read
For a decently entertaining story, for a read that you can read between other more enticing books (you won’t mind putting this one down for a bit)
Lei is a member of the Paper caste, the lowest and most persecuted class of people in Ikhara. She lives in a remote village with her father, where the decade-old trauma of watching her mother snatched by royal guards for an unknown fate still haunts her. Now, the guards are back and this time it’s Lei they’re after — the girl with the golden eyes whose rumored beauty has piqued the king’s interest. Over weeks of training in the opulent but oppressive palace, Lei and eight other girls learns the skills and charm that befit a king’s consort. There, she does the unthinkable — she falls in love. Her forbidden romance becomes enmeshed with an explosive plot that 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.
I had high hopes for the world here, with the caste system on a range of human to demon, but I felt like it didn’t come into much detail besides the general plot point of the unfair system. I love the dedicated lore and explanation behind interesting world features like this, but I wanted more here. The plot itself was solidly meh for me, as it felt like not much actually happened. When things did happen, I was invested in seeing how they would play out, but it was also largely predictable so the motivation through suspense was missing.
I loved the analogies of the writing, the descriptions, the most. Every now and then, there was a gem of a line that I stopped to re-read and savor a few times. I can’t always pin why they hit me so strongly, but some I just completely loved.
“After dinner, Lill picks a vivid orange cheongsam for me to wear to the performance, gold embroidery shimmering across the fabric. She adds a slash of vermilion paint on my lips. Then she slicks my hair back into an intricate braid, twining it with flame-colored ribbons. “Now you match the leaves,” she grins, moving back to admire her work.”
“In front of me, Chenna’s thick hair falls down in its usual braid, though tonight it has been threaded with tiny silver flowers that make it look as if she’d been dancing between the galaxies, catching stars.”
I’ll probably pick up the second book, eventually. When I finished, I originally wasn’t planning to, but after reading the notes and acknowledgements at the back, I had changed my mind. The passion that went into the story and world was enough to tip the scale for me, so authors: don’t underestimate the power of what you write in those sections! At least one person reads them! 😁