books · reviews

Girls of Paper and 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.

TW: violence and sexual abuse.

Characters

Lei worked in a herb shop with her father and their assistant. They lived a simple life but Lei couldn’t wish for more. One day, a general from the royal palace came to take Lei away to become a “Paper Girl”- a concubine for the Demon King. I loved Lei’s strong, determined personality and her loyalty to her family. Even though Lei was told to follow orders and learn to be “feminine”, she held onto her principles and didn’t let others push her around. 

I liked the other Paper Girls as well, including Aoki who became Lei’s best friend, and Wren who was quiet and mysterious.

I wished the villain in this story had more character, rather than… just being bad and paranoid. It also bothered me that the villain seemed to have a mental illness. For all the diversity in this book (LGBT and Asian rep), I wished that it could also send positive messages about mental health.

Plot and Pacing

In this novel, Lei learned what there was to know about being a Paper Girl, and decided to rebel against the system that kept her captive. The plot hooked me right away because it reminded me of the Chinese Wuxia dramas that I loved so much, except that it was written in the English language and incorporated some modern Western themes. This reminded me of all the shows that I used to watch as a kid and as a teenager haha so I was in a happy place! I really enjoyed the story.

I thought the pacing was good, with the right balance of plot advancement and character development.

Writing and Worldbuilding

As soon as I started this novel, I fell in love with the lyrical, descriptive yet concise writing style.

I enjoyed reading about the world as well. I loved that there were fantastical elements incorporated into this fictional, Asian-inspired kingdom, which was very well thought-out in its history and politics. I liked the idea of the Paper caste (humans) and the Moon caste (human-animal hybrids) who occupied different rungs on the hierarchy, and the overarching theme of the novel which was the fight for equality.

The Bottom Line: 3/5 stars!

I loved the Asian-inspired story and setting in this book as well as the diverse representation. However I wished that the villain could be more complex and interesting.

Have you read this novel? What are your favourite Asian-inspired novels or novels written by Asian writers?

25 thoughts on “Girls of Paper and Fire

  1. Lovely review, Sophie! ❤ I just finished reading this book as well and I agree, the writing was so, so beautiful and I really enjoyed the world-building just as well, yet something prevented me from falling in love with it. I'm not sure what ahah, but I have to agree about you when it comes to the villain!
    Lovely review ❤ ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Marie!! That’s great that you’ve just finished this book too! It sounds like we’ve read this at around the same time 🙂 Yes I really enjoyed the writing and the world building! I know what you mean though. I didn’t dislike this book, I wasn’t in love with it either though I can’t really say why haha 🙂 Thank you ❤ ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great review for this book Sophie. I’m glad you enjoyed it, though it’s a shame the villain felt a little too two-dimensional to you. It sounds like everything else about this book was well-written, I’m already half in love with the world building (you know how much I love good world building).
    So far all the other reviews I’ve seen for Girls of Paper and Fire have been promising, I need to check this one out myself at some point.
    Again great review. 🙂 ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Beth! Yeah the villain was my one big complaint about this book. I was always hoping that he could have some character rather than just being bad, even though it wouldn’t excuse him from the things that he’s done, you know? In general I did enjoy the book and as you said the reviews for the most part have been positive. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on this one when you have the chance to read it 🙂 Thank you!!! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      1. No I know what you mean. Characters need to have motivations and that includes the villains, making them just bad for the sake of it makes their character development too shallow for me you know?
        I’ll get around to this one one day, I’m weak for the hype and there seems to be a lot for this one so I’ll get hooked one day. 🙂
        That’s all right. 🙂 ❤️

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Definitely. Everyone needs to feel like they are doing the right thing. I’m sure villains don’t wake up in the morning and think “how am I going to destroy the world today” right? 🙂
        Curious about what you think about this book!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I just finished this Sophie so when I noticed your review i had to read what you thought. I was wondering what mental health issue you felt the king had? That was a very intriguing thought! I also really loved Wren and appreciated Aoki and Blue for their different perspectives on being a paper girl. ❤️ I also gave it 3 stars.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Dani! Glad to hear that you just finished this book. I thought he had some paranoia and delusions about the illness in the kingdom and the Gods who are angry at him, and it seems like all his actions are because of these delusional beliefs. Overall I think there is a trend towards acceptance and de-stigmatization of mental illnesses, in particular depression and anxiety, however I feel like there is still some stigma towards people who have delusional or psychotic disorders. I think the king in this novel has a mental illness, and it is unfortunate that he is portrayed as a villain.

      Liked by 1 person

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