may ➹'s Reviews > Girls of Paper and Fire

Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan
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I don’t want an easy life. I want a meaningful one.

I don’t think I can ever describe just how much this book means to me, but as soon as I’d heard that this book actually existed, I knew I needed it in my life. And I’m so happy that it’s getting all the hype, because this book is gorgeous and beautiful and a story we all need to read and listen to.

In this world called Ikhara, there are three castes, and a Demon King who rules them all. There’s Paper: the lowest caste, fully human, with no animal-demon features; Steel: humans with partial animal-demon features; and finally Moon: the highest caste, fully demon, with complete animal-demon features. Each year, the Demon King rips eight Paper girls from their homes and takes them to be his concubines. Everyone tells the girls it is an honor to be chosen for this life; some believe that, some do not. But no one has ever stood up to the King before without facing cruel punishment.

Lei has everything to fear in going to the palace. Her mother was taken similarly years ago, and no matter the amount of people saying that it’s a privilege to be chosen as a Paper girl and she should be grateful for it, she still dreads meeting the King, living in his palace, and leaving behind her father. Still, she readies herself to submit in order to survive—a sad reflection of what happens too often in today’s world—until she meets another Paper girl named Wren, who gives her hope of a better life.

Lei’s story takes some time to build up in the beginning at first, since her motivations and goals as a character aren’t quite clear yet. I’ll completely admit that I wasn’t as engaged in the beginning as I wish I could’ve been. But once that drive was initiated and the plot got moving, it was so easy to get into the book and be swept up in this unforgettably brutal yet beautiful story.

“Our lives here are defined by others, every decision made for us, every turn of fate pushed by the hands of others. But you stood up and said no. Even though you knew what it would cost you.”

One of the most beautiful things about this book is the way it tackles oppression. It’s a story all about oppression, in social castes/classes, appearance, and most of all, sexual abuse and rape. It is so accurately portrayed that rape is about power, and control, and entitlement, and never about sex or desire. The Demon King feels entitled to the girls he seizes, and what he takes from them he takes because it makes him feel power over them. It’s not hard to believe and scary how closely resembling this is to our world today.

But it’s not only a story of oppression, but about overcoming it too. One of the most powerful things a survivor can do is to step up and tell their truth, and this is a story of survivors finding the voice to speak up for themselves. It’s about knowing your worth and reclaiming it when someone forces you to think you have none. It’s about knowing that you are worth more than the beliefs of people who follow power without recognizing or choosing to see its horrors. It’s about knowing that no matter what, you are worth everything—the fight, the right to your own self, and the love.

And speaking of love, the love that Lei and Wren have for each other is so beautiful and so pure and so delightfully sapphic. It’s slow-burn, soft, and everything I wanted. Their relationship means so much to me, as a sapphic Asian myself, but even more, these two queer Asian girls fall in love in a world that will do anything to wrench them apart. Seeing them fight for each other, reclaim themselves with each other, and become stronger because of each other—it means the world.

Her kisses heal the part of me that the King broke. They tell me: You are strong, Lei. You are beautiful. And, always, most important, you are yours.

Of course, the themes and messages and romance have a huge hand in how beautiful this book is, but there’s also the fact that this writing is just gorgeous, and the world that Ngan has crafted is absolutely stunning. Reading this was like reading a love letter to Asian culture—the food, the clothing, the people. It was like returning to home, to a place of comfort, to family in Thailand and all the best Thai food.

Though this book is a beautiful must-read in my eyes, it is absolutely necessary that you be prepared for the heavy content. Huge huge content/trigger warning for rape, sexual abuse, physical abuse, and violence in general. It’s a quite heavy book to get through, and I can recall at least one scene that was graphic and very difficult for me to read. I recommend this book with my whole heart but please make sure you are in the right headspace! [More content warnings at the end of this review.]

Also, if you’re reading the ARC, content warning for aro/acephobic language. The author has confirmed it will be removed from the final copy (which is great!), but it is still in the ARC so take care!

When the world denies you choices, you make your own.

Despite the heaviness of this novel, and the slightly slow start, this is without a doubt one of my favorite books of the year and a book I will never cease to stop recommending. The story of two queer Asian girls unwilling to let anything get in between them means the world and more to me, and the book as a whole is a gorgeous voice for all Asians, queer girls, and those who keep fighting even when everyone tries to push them down.

:: rep :: entirely Asian cast (including Southeast-Asian-inspired, East-Asian-inspired, and South-Asian-inspired ethnicities), sapphic Asian female MC, sapphic Asian female LI || ownvoices for Asian, queer, and sexual abuse survivor rep

:: content warnings :: rape, attempted rape, sexual abuse, physical abuse, death, abduction, torture, violence, loss of loved one, scenes with blood, grief depictions


// buddy read with my least gayvorite person

Thank you to Jimmy Patterson Books for sending me an advance copy in exchange for an honest review! This did not affect my opinions in any way.

All quotes were taken from an unfinished copy and may differ in final publication.
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Reading Progress

December 29, 2017 – Shelved
December 29, 2017 – Shelved as: to-read
June 6, 2018 – Started Reading
June 6, 2018 –
page 131
32.75% "gay"
June 8, 2018 –
page 314
78.5% "i am so anxious and so afraid and i swear to god if my two precious gaysian girls don’t get a happy ending i am going to launch myself into space"
June 8, 2018 – Shelved as: fave-2018
June 8, 2018 – Shelved as: read-2018
June 8, 2018 – Shelved as: 5-star
June 8, 2018 – Shelved as: arc
June 8, 2018 – Shelved as: rep-bipoc-asian
June 8, 2018 – Shelved as: buddy-reads
June 8, 2018 – Shelved as: diverse
June 8, 2018 – Shelved as: fantasy
June 8, 2018 – Shelved as: rep-lgbtqiap-wlw
June 8, 2018 – Shelved as: important-messages
June 8, 2018 – Shelved as: rep-lgbtqiap-author
June 8, 2018 – Shelved as: rep-lgbtqiap
June 8, 2018 – Shelved as: my-soul-hurts
June 8, 2018 – Shelved as: my-heart
June 8, 2018 – Shelved as: ownvoices
June 8, 2018 – Shelved as: rep-bipoc-author
June 8, 2018 – Shelved as: rep-bipoc
June 8, 2018 – Shelved as: pov-1st
June 8, 2018 – Shelved as: pov-female
June 8, 2018 – Shelved as: pretty-cover
June 8, 2018 – Shelved as: young-adult
June 8, 2018 – Finished Reading
December 11, 2018 – Shelved as: tears
January 2, 2019 – Shelved as: good-ending
January 5, 2019 – Shelved as: shocking
April 30, 2020 – Shelved as: rep-bipoc-asian-author
May 3, 2020 – Shelved as: favorites
January 1, 2021 – Shelved as: rep-sapphic-asian

Comments Showing 1-47 of 47 (47 new)

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Elle (ellexamines) i can’t believe these Asian lesbians are going to save 2018


may ➹ Elise wrote: "i can’t believe these Asian lesbians are going to save 2018"

it doesn’t even have a cover and it’s already one of my most hyped releases


Leona  Petrovic OMG THIS SOUNDS FABULOUS!


message 4: by Helen 2.0 (new)

Helen 2.0 Brb making an “asians-in-fantasy” shelf


may ➹ Leona wrote: "OMG THIS SOUNDS FABULOUS!"

i can't wait for it!!!


message 6: by may ➹ (last edited Dec 31, 2017 09:46AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

may ➹ Helen 2.0 wrote: "Brb making an “asians-in-fantasy” shelf"

see, the thing is that there aren't enough asians in fantasy to make a big shelf soooo


evelyn hugo’s #1 fan ASIAN LESBIANS???? B I T C H


message 8: by Kelly (new)

Kelly For once there was never a sequel that actually have a Asian as a mc this might be a new apdation? This must be epic the cover is too bright and more colorful then my future 😂


madeline ♡ WHAT THE FCK ASIAN LESBIAN FANTASY brb screaming forever
(side note! The Tiger's Daughter is also asian lesbian fantasy blurbed by ve schwab and yes i loVE IT)


may ➹ Amelie wrote: "ASIAN LESBIANS???? B I T C H"

I'M SCREAMING IN ASIAN GAY


may ➹ Kelly wrote: "For once there was never a sequel that actually have a Asian as a mc this might be a new apdation? This must be epic the cover is too bright and more colorful then my future 😂"

aahh i'm sorry i don't really get what your first sentence means?? 🙈 but yes an asian mc & a beautiful cover!!!


message 12: by Elle (new) - rated it 5 stars

Elle (ellexamines) may i just won a fucking twitter giveaway for this i am.... screaming


may ➹ madeline ☾ wrote: "WHAT THE FCK ASIAN LESBIAN FANTASY brb screaming forever
(side note! The Tiger's Daughter is also asian lesbian fantasy blurbed by ve schwab and yes i loVE IT)"


AJ;LDSFSD THIS IS LITERALLY GOING TO MAKE 20GAYTEEN EVEN GAYER!!!

i looked it up but apparently it has some problematic things with the japanese rep so :/


may ➹ Elise wrote: "may i just won a fucking twitter giveaway for this i am.... screaming"

OH MY GOD... elise you have to love it i'm going to personally come to cali and strangle you if you don't


message 15: by Elle (new) - rated it 5 stars

Elle (ellexamines) may ➹ wrote: "Elise wrote: "may i just won a fucking twitter giveaway for this i am.... screaming"

OH MY GOD... elise you have to love it i'm going to personally come to cali and strangle you if you don't"


i'll strangle MYSELF if i don't


message 16: by Yeva (new) - added it

Yeva ASIANS??? LESBIANS??? I'M,,,,,,,


message 17: by Sabrien (new) - added it

Sabrien Abdelrahman Oh my god this cover is actually so gorgeous I'm deceased I need it now


Yusra  ✨ luuuuuckyyyyy


message 19: by [deleted user] (new)

Oooooohhh I need this now it looks so pretty and the title is honestly awesome. *places hold ten times because I NEED BOOK*


message 20: by clara (new) - added it

clara oh my god pls love this


may ➹ yeva 🐢 wrote: "ASIANS??? LESBIANS??? I'M,,,,,,,"

!!!!!


may ➹ Sabrien wrote: "Oh my god this cover is actually so gorgeous I'm deceased I need it now"

i love the cover so much oh my god


lily ☁️ Ahhh please love this!! 💞💞


message 24: by kazually ♡ (new) - added it

kazually ♡ haha happy reading! hope you enjoy <3


may ➹ Yusra wrote: "luuuuuckyyyyy"

i am so so excited!!!!


may ➹ Ariadne- Queen of Multiple POVs wrote: "Oooooohhh I need this now it looks so pretty and the title is honestly awesome. *places hold ten times because I NEED BOOK*"

the cover is truly beautiful!! i love everything about this book even tho i haven't read anything yet


may ➹ clara wrote: "oh my god pls love this"

if i even HESITATE to rate it 5 stars, i'm going into hiding


Kaylin (The Re-Read Queen) AHH I HAVE AN ARC OF THIS TOO AND IM SO EXCITED I hope we loooove it. It has too much potential. I need a win 👌🏻😭


Kayla Omg I need this


message 30: by Elle (new) - rated it 5 stars

Elle (ellexamines) GOD BLESS YOU’RE READING IT


message 31: by Elisa (last edited Jun 07, 2018 12:41AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Elisa I pre-ordered this after I saw that tweet about the SJM release dates — it really pissed me off. But also, the premise is fantastic and the cover is so goooooood. So win-win.


julianna ➹ how DARE you i am your most gayvorite person!!!!


madeline ♡ ADJDJDJSMCMDDN I NEED TO READ


message 34: by [deleted user] (new)

YES YES FIVE STARS IM SO HAPPY GONNA CRY OMG IM EVEN MORE ExCITED AFHSAJGFDHGFSHDGF


may ➹ Lily ☁️ wrote: "Ahhh please love this!! 💞💞"

:))


may ➹ kazually wrote: "haha happy reading! hope you enjoy <3"

thank you!! i enjoyed it so much 💕


may ➹ Kaylin wrote: "AHH I HAVE AN ARC OF THIS TOO AND IM SO EXCITED I hope we loooove it. It has too much potential. I need a win 👌🏻😭"

KAYLIN YOU HAVE TO READ IT ASAP it was so good and gay and glorious 😍


may ➹ Kayla wrote: "Omg I need this"

you truly do


may ➹ Elise wrote: "GOD BLESS YOU’RE READING IT"

god bless the fact that me reading it made you 5 star!!!!!!


message 40: by Elle (new) - rated it 5 stars

Elle (ellexamines) may ➹ wrote: "Elise wrote: "GOD BLESS YOU’RE READING IT"

god bless the fact that me reading it made you 5 star!!!!!!"


it made me realize the truth is what you mean


Katie.dorny I so need to read this book; I 100% feel like I’m missing out


♥ℂĦℝΪՖƬΪℕÅ Lovely review, May :) I can't wait to read this!! xoxo


may ➹ Katie.dorny wrote: "I so need to read this book; I 100% feel like I’m missing out"

it is so good and I hope you love it if you get around to reading it!!! 💕💕


may ➹ ♥ℂĦℝΪՖƬΪℕÅ wrote: "Lovely review, May :) I can't wait to read this!! xoxo"

thank you so much!! sending all the love and hoping you love it too!!! 💓💗


Lorraine (Reading With Lori) Hii May🌻 Wow you wrote such a descriptive & thoughtful review. The way you wrote this was just beautiful. I’ve been wanting to read this and can be triggered by rape, so this review helped a bit. I read the first two chapters & enjoyed it, but was heartbroken about her dog in the beginning😭

The quotes you used was just beautiful I literally started tearing up when I read Lei talking about Wren’s kisses heal a part of her that the king broke just HURT. I think this is worth the read, but I will be cautious for sure. You mentioned a scene being really graphic....do you know which chapter or any more information on it? Sorry to ask so much I’m just curious about how descriptive and vivid it is. I want to read it, but skeptical about the heavy rape scenes.

Also, thank you for mentioning the ARC issue where the Author was editing the acephobic language, you really updated us.


may ➹ @Lorraine aaahhh thank you so much!!! you are so sweet and lovely 💕💕 the book is absolutely beautiful!! I believe the scene that was graphic to me was at the end of Chapter 18 (pg 150ish??). the Demon King was very forceful and no rape took place at that point but it was still a violent sexual assault. hope this helps! 💛


Empress X You described this book so perfectly to have I was feeling! It’s my new fav and I’m dyiiiiiinnnnnnnggggg! Ily Lei ily Wren ILY BOOOK ILY NATASHA NGANNNNNNNN HELP I’M DEAD


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