In the land of Ikhara, there are three classes. Lei is Paper Caste; fully human and at the bottom of society.j
When Lei is abducted by royal guards and brought to the capital to be a consort to the king for the next year along with seven other girls, she is determined to make it back home. Over the next months, Lei is trained in dance, manners, and other womanly arts meant to make her a more enjoyable Paper Girl for the king to enjoy. But no matter how much she learns, Lei cannot bring herself to give in to the demands of tradition. Instead she finds herself falling in love (which is forbidden for a Paper Girl) and as a result pulled into a rebel plot against the king and his demon forces.
The world Ngan creates is detailed and beautiful, and Girls of Paper and Fire is a page turner no doubt. I found myself both drawn to and appalled by the story, which is both a beautiful love story and a brutal tale of systematic violence and abuse. The description of the book on Goodreads aptly includes a trigger warning for sexual abuse. But for those who feel comfortable enough to give it a try, I found the book very much worth the discomfort of those moments. In fact, I would almost say that the fact that Ngan doesn’t shy away from shining a spotlight on those issues makes this book even more remarkable.
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