Genre: YA, Fantasy
Publication Date: November 6th 2018
Source: James Patterson Books in return for an honest review
“I don’t want an easy life. I want a meaningful one.”
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 would like to thank James Patterson Books and the author for the copy of this book in return for an honest review*
This Asian inspired fantasy explores a unique caste system, a forbidden romance and some darker topics while showcasing a complex beautifully developed world with a cast of characters that have you feeling all types of emotions.
I am not even sure where to really start with this review, this book was packed full of everything that makes an amazing fantasy novel. I found the world interesting and unique and although it shared slight similarities with the more common European fantasy, it opened my eyes to a culture that I am not familiar with and loved being immersed into. The attention to detail and the dedication to developing the world and setting for the world in which Lei and the other Paper Girls were thrown into was done gorgeously. I found myself needing to google different foods, and clothing styles that I was not familiar with, but felt like I could visualize it before I search it.
I loved the wide variety of characters and personalities present in this story. All of the paper girls really grew on my by the end even though I was not a fan of some at the beginning. I loved that we got to learn about their backstory and some of the reasons they were participating as a paper girl. Lei showed a strength that isn’t seen in many fantasy novels, so many times the focus is on physical strength, but Lei’s strength was an inner one, filled with courage and bravery. Sometimes the inner battles and emotional trauma can destroy you faster than the physical pain. The romance, I called from the beginning and I was so for it and rooting for it the entire time. It is the first time I have read a f/f that did it so well! Not only was it a f/f but it was forbidden which had me wanting it even more! Also let me just say this real quick, I was loving Zelle! There is so much I could say about the rest of the girls and other characters, but that would make this such a long post.
The concept of the caste system was such a nice touch to the book and felt like real life issues played a role in creating/developing this aspect of the story. The hatred and a certain caste being seen as lesser is a mirror to our own society. With that also the views of woman in the story I feel like has a large reflection on what is happening in the world today. It is always nice when a book can take a novel and in a roundabout way relate back to real life, I think it is important for younger kids to read books like this to not only get immersed into a different culture but be able to see the monstrosity of society told in a different way so they can make the connection.
Overall I thought this book was amazing and exactly the fantasy book that I needed. It was unique, emotional and beautifully descriptive and well written. I did have a had time with some of the trigger warnings and the fact that these young girls were used as concubines and all the cruelty that was present in the book, but sometimes I feel like that is needed in stories to open the eyes to what goes on in the world, human trafficking is becoming such an issue and makes me so sad. This is a must read this fall! It had some beautiful quotes and some strong words about not giving up. I cannot wait for the next book after the way this one ended and holding out for more of Lei and the other paper girls story!