(Spoilers for Girls of Paper and Fire)
In this mesmerizing sequel to the New York Times bestselling Girls of Paper and Fire, Lei and Wren have escaped their oppressive lives in the Hidden Palace, but soon learn that freedom comes with a terrible cost.
Lei, the naive country girl who became a royal courtesan, is now known as the Moonchosen, the commoner who managed to do what no one else could. But slaying the cruel Demon King wasn’t the end of the plan—it’s just the beginning. Now Lei and her warrior love Wren must travel the kingdom to gain support from the far-flung rebel clans. The journey is made even more treacherous thanks to a heavy bounty on Lei’s head, as well as insidious doubts that threaten to tear Lei and Wren apart from within.
Meanwhile, an evil plot to eliminate the rebel uprising is taking shape, fueled by dark magic and vengeance. Will Lei succeed in her quest to overthrow the monarchy and protect her love for Wren, or will she fall victim to the sinister magic that seeks to destroy her?
TW/CW: discussion of sexual assault, trauma, murder, loss of a loved one, alcoholism
Girls of Paper and Fire – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Getting an ARC of this book was probably one of the bigger highlights of BookCon. I was so excited to dive into the sequel and wasn’t disappointed. I will be honest with the sentiment that this book is not nearly as good as book one. That being said, I did enjoy the story that unfolded and the excitement for what lies ahead in book three.
“Fear is good. It means you care. And caring is its own kind of magic. One just as powerful as any dao I can weave.”
Lei – Former paper girl, badass in training. Daughter of an herb shop owner and well versed in herbs and their healing properties. Has a big heart and is known for making rash decisions because of this. Queer, most likely lesbian, in f/f romance with Wren.
Wren – Adopted daughter of the main opposition against the crown. Well versed in fighting, magic, and plot twists. Queer, most likely lesbian, in f/f romance with Lei.
Bo – Comic relief (though a bit grating at times), leopard demon. In a m/m romance, revealed later on in the story.
Nitta – Bo’s sister, resident level-head, also a leopard demon.
Merrin – Owl demon, usually the butt of Bo’s humor. In a m/m romance, revealed later on in the story.
Caen – Advisor to Wren’s father. Helps with Lei’s training and strategy for taking down the king. In a m/m romance, revealed later on in the story.
Hiro – Too PURE FOR THIS WORLD and this story. Shaman helping out the troops on their journey to secure alliances. Resident cinnamon roll.
“There is nothing stronger than people who endure the worst hardships in the world and still raise their fists at the start of a new day to fight all over again.”
The plot for this story really is every political fantasy out there. Now that our heroines have escaped, they need to get allies so they can go back and OVER THROUGH THE PATRIARCHY. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fine plot, but it’s one I find a smidge boring.
The first half of this book really dragged as we were just following our characters hike across the snowy terrain, and really that was it for like 150-200 pages. Once we made it to the Cloud Palace, cool things started to happen and the pace definitely picked up. I can see how this slow pacing would be off-putting to some readers, especially if they weren’t too invested in the war-plotting or some of the character banter.
I am happy that I stuck with this one, as the second half of this book packed some SERIOUS punches. There are some reveals in this book I’m still reeling over and some character deaths I’m still weeping over.
That being said, there were some character revelations I’m actually quite pissed at and I really didn’t like. I’m interested to see how this plays a role in the finale, but still, I was shocked and angry when we found out some things. Not enough to like hate the book or lower a rating, but some characters I was rooting for, I’m now quite suspicious of.
I also loved that we spent some chapters at the palace with some of the characters from the first book. There were some huge reveals and unexpected alliances in book one and seeing the impact they made in book two helped add to the stakes our characters are truly up against.
“Making love to Wren still feels like healing, like being made anew.”
I think the pacing of this one had room to improve, but I am happy the back half was filled for a lot of action, reveals, and cliff hanger just as massive as the first book. This book had love, loss, betrayal, and adventure in it and was a super fun read. I’m so excited to see how this series concluded and am excited to revisit these characters on the reread. I also love that Ngan is not afraid to make us question our favorites and remind us that war times will always bring out the worst in people. Is there a Mockingjay-level twist coming in the final book? I guess we’ll have to find out in fall 2020!