“When the world denies you choices, you make your own.”
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.
TW: animal cruelty, violence, graphic injury, sexual assault, other implied sexual content, some homophobia
I’ve seen so many reviews praising Girls of Paper and Fire, and I’ve been so good about not reading them beyond the star rating. I didn’t want any spoilers going in, none at all, because the second I hear in any detail what someone else thinks, my steel trap brain will hold onto it and change the experience.
And somehow, I dodged the spoilers (mostly), and I went in with no idea what to expect beyond what the summary promised.
AND I NEED THE NEXT ONE.
Seriously, this was a phenomenal book. I love how vivid the setting was, how the plot unfurled piece by piece. Some folks don’t like slower paced books, which I can understand, and this did have movements that took their time, gradually setting up the whole. I love that, though. I eat it up, especially when we’re talking about books set in some kind of royal context. It’s the kind of plot stuff I crave.
Also, it’s super queer, with two girls who love each other and fight for the chance to be with each other and draw strength from each other and this is without a doubt the sort of book I probably could have used in high school.
I loved the transition of Wren and Lei’s relationship especially, the way Lei began to make sense of her feelings, the way Wren had all her walls up and still fell. You can hand me soft and compassionate shipped with strong and well-guarded any day, and I will ship it ENDLESSLY. It’s just one of those shippy tropes that I’m completely enamored with because it usually means soft and compassionate will fight to the death for their lover, and the guarded one lets all their walls down because here’s the one person in the world who can make them soft, the one person they love and trust and adore.
ANYWAY, I will admit that I wish there’d be a little more character development for certain characters, and at the same time, this is a book that focuses on survival in the face of powerful men, men who have taken power rather than earned it, men who continue to take whatever they want. If there was a time for hobbies or lazy days or anything enjoyable that wasn’t done in stolen moments, this is not it. In the court of the Demon King, it is survival first.
(That said, if there was ever a short story about Wren before becoming a Paper Girl, I would read that in a heartbeat.)
And the ending? The set-up for the next book? The fact that this is definitely supposed to have a sequel? HOLY CRAP.
Seriously, I read that epilogue and almost threw the book down because this story isn’t even close to over yet, and nothing could have prepared me for that final page. And it promises so much in the future, not just on the basis of that epilogue, but the loose threads in the story, the ones that balance on a knife’s edge. Lei’s pendant word (which could be blessing and curse), the Demon Queen, the Sickness, Lei’s golden eyes, Wren’s life before being a Paper Girl, their lives after the book’s end, and SO MUCH MORE have the promise to grow into something fierce and incredible whenever the next book arrives, and I’ll be preordering it as soon as I’m able to.
I loved Girls of Paper and Fire, and I’m so delighted to at last see an F/F book receive so much hype, enough that it hit the NYT bestsellers list. Too often, finding good F/F books can be hard unless you’re ready to dive deep, but this one has been given so much hype that you can’t miss it. It’s worth every minute it takes to read it, and the story to come has so much promise. I’m honestly over the moon about this and prepared for more. It’s that good. I promise.
Have you read Girls of Paper and Fire yet? If you have, we should talk about that epilogue. And if you haven’t, are you going to? Tell me where you stand!