Hello fellow book nerds! Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan was one of my most anticipated reads this year. I thought the story sounded so unique and that cover! There had been a lot of praise for the books but while most enjoyed it, I was not one of them. I was a little disappointed with this read and honestly wished I could have enjoyed it more.
What was the last book you had high expectations for?
Girls of Paper and Fire
3 out of 5 stars
Taken from Goodreads
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.
I had mixed feelings about this book. I really, really wanted to love and enjoy it but I just didn’t. The description of this book made me expect this epic, high fantasy story of revenge and forbidden love. While there was talk of revenge and some romance, it was not epic. This whole world was really fascinating by how demons and humans roam the world together. It is understandable how low humans rank in a world like this but I wish we got more. Each demon description was fantastically done, really making me feel like I could look up and actually see them in front of me. This was one of my favorite things about the book. The world itself though felt very flat and there was a lot of missed opportunity to really delve into this story. There was not a lot of buildup throughout the book but just the same situation over and over again. Then, out of nowhere, we get hidden information that we’ve been waiting for the whole book. This all happened with about 10% of the book left, leaving everything rushed. With the main events happening towards the end, the ending felt under appreciated. If less of the beginning was given and more of the ending, this book would have been more successful.
Along with some pacing issues, the main character Lei didn’t meet my expectations. I was expecting such a fighter and this amazing romantic chemistry that was never received. Her character felt very flat with barely any development. With how long the beginning took, I would have expected more of a connection with her. I, personally, connected a lot more with the side characters. Wren was a mystery the whole time but not in a good way. The mystery was more infuriating that compelling which could have been resolved if we had her background a little earlier. This took away from how amazing her character is. I also was not really convinced on the romance. There was no buildup which made me confused when it just started. As the book continued, I did adore their relationship but the buildup left it feeling a little unconvinced in the beginning. I felt that Lei had the chance to grow into a great character but was never really given the opportunity. While the King was clearly evil and did horrendous things, I was never afraid or hated his character. He was another character that just felt contradicting to the story because it needed a villain.
Overall, Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan just didn’t do it for me. While the story was unique within itself creating a world that we haven’t really seen in fantasy, it had a lot of missed opportunity. The story took too long to get anywhere, resulting in dampening on how amazing the end of the book really was. Lei was not a very well connected main character with little development throughout the story. The side characters were what really supported the movement of this book. There were some really great scenes in this book but they were not enough to cover the other flaws. With a shorter beginning and expanding the ending, this would have been an epic, nonstop addictive read. I recommend this book if you enjoy fantasy with a long lead up to explosive endings and very strong supporting characters.