Book Review: Girls of Paper and Fire

In the world of Girls and Paper and Fire there are three castes, Moon caste: full demons, Steel caste, human-demon hybrids, and Paper caste, full humans. The Paper caste is the lowest of them. At birth every child is given a Birth-blessing: a single word on a piece of paper, secured in a pendant.

Our kingdom believes words have power. That the characters of our language can bless or curse a life.

page 4

Lei is a Paper caste girl, known for her golden eyes. Taken from her own and thrust into the world of the Demon King and His Palace she becomes the 9th Paper Girl.

Paper Girls are the King’s concubines. They serve him for a year. Some girls want to become a Paper girl: for some it is beneficial to their family, for others it is an honor. For Lei, it is a prison from which she longs to escape.

Lei’s mother was also taken from their home by Moon caste soldiers, but she was not taken to become a Paper girl, and Lei longs to find any trace of her, to know what happened. She clings to the idea that she is alive, as she clings to the words her mother told her as a child:

When you’re angry or upset, stop for a moment and close your eyes. Breathe in slowly. Imagine as you do that the air you take in is bright and golden, as lovely and light as your eyes. Let that brightness fill your belly. Then, when you exhale, picture the darkness that had been within you – whatever it was that upset you- and visualize it leaving your body as your release your breath. Joyful, golden light comes in … darkness goes out.

page 163

As she learns to navigate through her new reality, she makes a few friends in her new home, particularly one of the younger Paper Girls, Aoki. Lei also finds herself doing one of the most dangerous things a Paper girl can do : she falls in love.

REVIEW: From the first page I was drawn in by Lei’s voice as she tells her story. It begins as the story of her journey from her home and family to become the 9th Paper Girl, but it is so much more. It is the story of a girl finding her voice, of a girl who’s life has been irrevocably changed, of a girl falling in love. Most of all this is the story of a girl fighting to keep control of who she is as the world she lives in tries to force her into submission.

Natasha Ngan creates a rich and beautifully realized world in this book. She writes lyrical sentences and paces this book just perfectly. Her attention to detail made this book come alive in my mind and the supporting characters are fully developed.

This book stayed with me long after I finished reading it. I went back and reread some of my favorite passages before rereading the entire book the next day. I fell in love with the characters, I was drawn into Lei’s world. My heart hurt when she hurt, and soared when she found small pieces of happiness.


Odd, how time works. On long days in the shop, I’ve known it to stretch out forever, as thick and heavy as molasses. Other days – days filled with fun errands or festivals – time would take on a brittle, icelike quality. I’d race through it and it’d snap into pieces around me, crystalline moments of happiness and laughter, and before i knew it, the day would be gone.

page 167

NOTES: I read the Barnes & Noble Special Edition with a bonus feature: Natasha Ngan’s handwritten notes on her favorite chapter. I already loved the world she created in this book and having Ngan’s notes added to and enhanced my understanding of Lei, her story, her world, and her journey.

In the beginning of December I was having a chat with a friend about reading. I told her about my Thanksgiving readathon. She told me that she wanted to read 10 more books to hit 100 for the year. She asked how many I read that year. I had no idea. I had never tracked my reading like that before. I began to think about using Instagram to track my reading. Finish a book, take a picture and post it. It was going to be a 2019 New Year’s Resolution. After I finished reading this book a second time, I snapped a quick picture of it and posted it to instagram with a very short review. I loved this book so much it was the final push I needed to post that first review, and start my own journey. As I wrote this post, I thought back to that day. December 10, 2018 me had no idea that January 28, 2019 me would have an instagram devoted to books and a blog dedicated books and reading. I am so very grateful that I got here, thank you to everyone that has supported me and Books with PIP!

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