During Book Expo, I attended a panel called “Buzz Books Young Adult.” While there, I was introduced to Girls of Paper and Fire, a story that captured my attention before I read a single page. I knew I had to have this book and I’m so glad I grabbed an advanced copy. It is absolutely incredible.
In Girls of Paper and Fire, a world of magic, family and love, Lei is living a somewhat peaceful life in her village. She runs a small herb shop with her Baba and family friend Tien, who is of the Steel caste. What’s that, you ask? Well, according to the the world of Ikhara, which is where the story takes place, there are three castes: Moon, a full demon with animal characteristics and abilities with a humanoid form; Steel, a demon-human hybrid with limited demon capabilities; and Paper, a full human. Anyone of the Paper caste is considered the lowest of the low, not to be respected, cared about or treated like anything but dirt. The Moon caste demons run the show and they have no problem taking what they deem belongs is theirs. So when demons come to Lei’s village, they take her from her family to become one of the infamous Paper Girls of the Heavenly Master.
Growing up, I was always interested in world history. And throughout that history, concubines always played some part. When I was old enough to understand the role of a concubine, I always wondered if that was a life they wanted or did they ever want to leave. Could they leave? What if they thought the emperor, king or whomever was too ugly? Did they still have to be a concubine? As I got older and read more about them, my questions changed and so did my feelings. Being a concubine was just another form of subjugation of women and I mourned for them. Because no matter how much you dress it up, forcing a woman to fulfill a man’s every whim is bullshit.
But Girls of Paper and Fire is not just about being a concubine. It is about being true to yourself, family, friends, and best of all, finding love where you least expect it. Ms. Ngan took her own background and tons of research to create a world that felt real, and characters I felt so many emotions for. Some of the events in the book pulled at my heart, but thankfully, the author wrote them in a way that was not at all graphic and was respectful of the characters and the readers. Ms. Ngan did not write for shock value, she wrote for understanding and truth. By the time I got to the last page, I felt like I had been pulled into Lei’s story, feeling every emotion, every small bits of joy, every fear and every moment she fought to become the person she was meant to be.
Girls of Paper and Fire will be out on October 23, 2018 and is available for pre-order. Be brave and order your copy. You will not want to miss out on this amazing story. I highly recommend it.