Riveting Read: Girls of Paper and Fire
A story of magic, mayhem, rebels and young love which will captivate readers
Perfect for fans of Sabaa Tahir and Leigh Bardugo
Her current read is ‘Girls of Paper and Fire’ by Natasha Ngan
This instalment of Riveting Reads come to you from Assistant Youth Librarian Kerrie Gamble.
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 cruelest. But this year, there's a ninth girl.
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.
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.
Natasha Ngan has created an emotionally immersive experience with her novel that draws on Ngan’s own experiences. Ngan entices her readers with a unique setting and the idea of the caste system is brilliant with its melding of animal and human forms. This not only captures the imagination but is a brilliant metaphor. The more animalistic you are the higher your caste and the highest caste can only be described as animals both in nature and appearance. In this novel Ngan champions self-empowerment while condemning classism, homophobia and the commodification of woman. While ‘Girls’ does contain sexual violence and abuse it is done sensitively and is not graphic but is usually implied except in some circumstances. Excellent pacing gives us a tightly woven story that moves smoothly and rapidly to its climactic and dramatic conclusion. A slow burning romance and intense action packed political intrigue makes for a page turning experience.
Ngan has created a diverse cast of characters with different ethnicities and viewpoints. The main character Lei is easy to empathize with due to all she has gone through and well go through. Lei is rebellious and angry but plagued by self-doubt and insecurities, she is a realistic character that you can’t help but root for. Essentially this book is a survivor narrative about how young women can overcome trauma and violence to reclaim their own selves and bodies. This book presented multiple ways in which these woman coped with the abuse they were facing ranging from rebelling to falling in love with their abuser. Ngan does not pass judgement on any of these methods instead she provides reasons for their coping strategies. Lei is a compelling narrator because she is so refreshingly commonplace, she is not the chosen one or a lost heir, she is simply a young woman whose bravery and passion are relatable to readers.
A lush, feminist fantasy with rich world building that weaves a powerful tale
You can find this book in Young Adult Fiction under NGA