Publisher: Jimmy Patterson
Author: Natasha Ngan
Release: November 6th 2018
Received: ARC given away at BookCon
Warnings: Animal death, sexual assault, abuse
I received a free copy of Girls of Paper and Fire at BookCon. There was no agreement to leave a review in return; I’m doing so because I want to.
Girls of Paper and Fire is the first novel I’ve read that was written by Natasha Ngan, but I can safely say that I officially adore her writing. I’m going to have to add some of her earlier novels to my TBR list.
The cover is going to get one of my unofficial awards for prettiest cover of 2018. It’s absolutely striking. I love the color choice, the design itself, and the overall balance between the imagery and the font. It’s evocative and memorable. And frankly, it’s just plain pretty. I’m not ashamed to admit that. It’s the sort of book cover that’d get me to stop and read the description – or possibly even buy the book without reading the description (sometimes I do that because I want to be surprised, I’m weird I know).
It’s amazing how much ink this novel is getting, and it’s not even out yet. When I was at BookCon I ended up waiting in line for almost an hour to get my signed copy (worth it) and they had to turn so many people away during that time. Now it’s being listed as a best seller on Amazon (again, it isn’t even out yet!). Needless to say that I’m feeling very lucky I was able to get my copy early! Though I do feel bad that I didn’t read it sooner.
Before I get on to the book itself, I just want to say how impressed I am with how sensitive Ngan and her publisher are. There’s a warning on Goodreads, and a few other sites, which I rarely see included on other books (even ones more graphic than this one). It is very up front about the fact that there’s sexual assault in this book. I absolutely love that fact. It’s something I wish more books and publishing companies could state up front (I get that sometimes it’s a spoiler issue, but I’d prefer the warning, and I’m sure I’m not alone).
Warnings first: I already mentioned that there’s sexual assault in this novel. It’s not something that’s been kept a secret, which I appreciate. You can kind of get an idea of what’s in store just by reading the description, to be honest. The same can be said for the physical abuse that occurs. There is an animal death early on in the novel. You can see it coming though, and it’s the only one that happens.
The Girls of Paper and Fire is a beautifully written and emotionally powerful novel. It was impossible not to feel compassion for Lei and the rest of the girls (yes, even the ones that were acting out) and the situation they were in. I’ll admit that I had experienced some trepidation when I went to start reading, simply because I knew I was going to be in store for a heavier read…but I truly do feel that it was worth every moment.
Ngan did such a wonderful job setting up the world, the culture, and the expectations of their society. It made it feel almost too real in some ways – like I could really feel the societal pressure they were surely experiencing.
The novel itself is a rich blend of genres. There are the obvious features, such as the magic, politics (the caste systems, dealing with the courts), the culture, and more. But then there’s also some romance, intrigue, and a feeling of hope and determination that changes the tone throughout. I think that many different readers would find something to enjoy here.
I love that Ngan managed to make the eight paper girls we got to know all unique and different from one another. Even those that we didn’t get to know too well still felt like their own characters – they felt like real people. She showed their hopes, dreams, flaws, and fears. It made the whole situation they were in that much more daunting and complex. Their reasons for being there were all different, despite how similar they appeared at first.
The demon king…he’s a character that’s easy to hate. I loved hating him. It was awful seeing the horrible things he did without any thought or show of emotion, but it made me feel vindicated in my hatred of him. I’m sure many readers will agree with that sentiment. Learning a bit more about him explained a lot of his emotional outburst, though it did nothing to excuse his behavior. I’m mentioning that part because I think it was a brilliant move on Ngan’s part to let us see a bit more about him. The best antagonists are the ones where we can understand their motivations.
The conclusion of this novel makes is very clear that there will be a sequel. It’s not a cliffhanger really, but a direct tie in to what will happen next. If you don’t want to have any lose ends, so to speak, don’t read the epilogue, as that’s where it happens.
Before the epilogue everything felt decently wrapped up. There were still questions, of course, but none of them pertained to major plot points, so I’m okay with that. After the epilogue I was left with more questions, but also a confidence in that they’d be answered in the next novel. I don’t meant to be greedy, but I hope we at least get a title for the next one soon. I’d love an idea for what will come next.