Girls of Paper and Fire
This book was a quick and enjoyable read – and whilst that’s always what you look for in a novel, I felt a little bit like I was reading a combination of novels I’ve read before. Sort of a déjà vu moment; but not. And if you asked me to put my finger on it, I couldn’t quite place it…there’s some Memoirs of a Geisha, The Handmaid’s Tale, 50 Shades (without the crazy x-rated bits), The Hunger Games (and other teen dystopian books of that nature), a selection of fairy tales and The Bible – to name a few. And whilst it’s true that there’s really no such thing as a truly original idea, the fact that many of the storylines felt obvious was a tad annoying.
Set in a past/present (?) caste-based society this novel explores the world of Ikhara through the eyes of Lei. Those in higher castes are part animal and the others just human. Lei is of the lowest caste and has suffered trauma due to the higher caste in her youth. Her family live a peaceful life, far from the intrigues of court. The highest honour of the land is to be chosen as one of the king’s concubines and despite her distance from court Lei is chosen as one of the “lucky” ones.
In the court she learns how to please the king and falls in love. She also must come to terms with the past and choose if she wishes to put things right.
Obviously, the first in a series this is one of those that chooses to leave you hanging a bit (not my favourite thing to do, but for some young readers a necessity I suspect), and whilst I have quite a few reservations (as above) I will look forward to the next in the series with some anticipation as I did think the book got much better as it progressed.
About the Author
Natasha Ngan is part young-adult author, part yoga-teacher, part habitual nap-taker. She grew up between Malaysia and the UK, speaking Chinese with her mother mainly as a way to talk about people without them understanding. She studied Geography at the University of Cambridge and later worked as a fashion blogger, social media consultant and freelance writer. Natasha recently moved to Paris, where she likes to imagine she drifts stylishly from brasserie to brasserie, notepad in one hand and wineglass in the other. In reality, she mostly spends her time lost on the metro and offending locals with her French.