Sunday, March 24, 2019

Girls of paper and fire by Natasha Ngan

Lei lives in a world ruled by the Moon caste - demons with animal features that can be beautiful or terrifying.  The Moon caste rules over the fully human Paper caste who are the lowest members of society, and the Steel caste who straddle both worlds by being mostly human with some demon features.  It is a world where everyone knows their place from the moment they are born, and everyone answers to the Demon King.  There is nothing special about Lei apart from her eyes, golden eyes like a demons.

Life in the Paper caste is hard but not unbearable, even though her mother was snatched away in the night years ago in a night of terror when the village was raided.  It may have made her family smaller, but Lei has the love and support of her father and the familiar surroundings of the family shop to keep her going.  Her life is abruptly upended when a General from the Demon Kings army arrives and drags her away to become one of this years Paper Girl - something that is supposed to be an honour, but Lei doesn't see it that way.

Life in the Hidden Palace is full of danger and intrigue, and Lei is unprepared for just how dangerous her new life is.  The Paper Girls may be treated as precious, but that is only because they are the property of the Demon King and no man may touch his property - and no one may deny him.  As the days turn into weeks Lei struggles to settle into life in the Hidden City, and as time goes by and she learns more about her new world the more the struggle grows.  There is danger and intrigue in the City, and not everyone is what they seem.  Lei is about to discover the danger of having a mind of her own, and she will also learn what happens when you deny a powerful man.  Can Lei discover the secrets swirling around her before it's too late?

Girls of paper and fire was an amazing read - the characters were well developed and filled a world that made instant sense and provided a backdrop for a complex social structure.  Right from the start Ngan treated her teen readers to a genuine story without pulling any punches or softening the violence of her world.  There is a very good reason there is a warning at the start of the book saying that it contains scenes of violence and sexual violence - this is not a book for 'tweens and younger teens as there are complex social issues and themes that make even adult readers uncomfortable.  

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Reviewed by Brilla

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