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: violence and sexual abuse.
I received a copy of Girls of Paper and Fire from the publisher. She’s one of the few Malaysian authors that I’ve heard of in the YA industry and I knew that I wanted to read this book.
This book is #ownvoices.
I must admit that I assumed that the paper element would be focussing on funerals and deaths, and that was not the case. However, I was not disappointed as it became even more fascinating than I expected. It was interesting to read of a society where there are three different castes of humans, depending on their appearance. As a multiracial person, I was also intrigued to read about what happens when people from two different castes get a baby. So many books forget to touch upon this subject but this book did not forget that these children exist as well.
The world building was excellent, and served as a fascinating mirror to our society. It was interested to see how different castes interacted with each other, and how people’s positions in the society affected how they were treated.
The f/f romance is lovely and builds up beautifully. While the girls fall in love pretty quickly, it does take one of them some time to put a word to her feelings. It was lovely to read this, as usually people in books realise more quickly that they are in love, and it was refreshing to read another experience.
The ending of this book was bloody unexpected. I was in shock and so frustrated that I would have to wait for quite some time before I could read the sequel.
A lovely book! I loved the focus on how people try to survive in difficult situations and the complexity of people from the same background despising each other because of the positions they fill, and how it explained that even those in better positions can still be in cages.
I am so very excited to hear what you all think of the story, and to see whether you too will enjoy it as much as I did!
Trigger warning: violence, sexual abuse.
Are you going to read Girls of Paper and Fire? What do you think of it?