Wren and I might not be Paper Girls anymore
This was one of my most sought after ARC of the year. While I had genuine character issues with our Moonchosen, I was completely enraptured with the story and so many of the secondary characters of Girls of Paper and Fire. My blog partner was able to get a personalized copy at BookCon for me (I had another ticketed event at the time of Natasha’s signing, and this, my friends, is why Book Besties are THE. BEST. FRIENDS.), and I cannot tell you how excited I was to hold it in my hands. Even more so – I was thrilled to be able to dive back into my darling Wren’s arms again.
Little did I know that my heart was going to be overwhelmed with happiness, anger, sorrow and loss. Fair warning, there are mild spoilers for Girls of Storm and Shadow and MAJOR spoilers for Girls of Paper and Fire!
★ ★ ★ ★
Author: Natasha Ngan
Publisher: Jimmy Patterson Books
Format/Source: BOOKCON ARC
Goodreads, IndieBound, Amazon, Book Depo
From GoodReads: 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?
but we are still capable of creating fire.
The Book Dragon Breaks Down…..
Plot: ★★★★ 1/2
World: ★★★ 1/2
Character Development: ★★★★
This is the second book in a trilogy, so as is typical, this was a journey novel. While the Girls of Paper and Fire (referred to as GOPAF after this) was set almost exclusively in the King’s Palace, this story spans several different regions and even a stint on the sea, in Wren’s ex-girlfriend’s boat – more on that later. During their travels, the aim is to gather as many allies against the *surprise surprise – or not* still living Demon King. With the help of new friends, old allies, and some really adorable gaysian bois, Lei and Wren embark on a quest to complete their mission, and save lost friends along the way.
The atmosphere reflects a society which holds women in a much lower regard, and this is showcased several times throughout the journey. While the first novel focused on their life IN the palace, this novel explored how trauma, stress, and growth take it’s toll on budding love. After suffering humiliation and horrific abuse at the hands of the Demon King, Lei struggles with the process of healing and wanting revenge, each part of her warring with the other. Adding complications of secrets Wren still keeps from her, and the nagging suspicion that something is following her, Lei hides much of this from her friends along the way.
In a delightful twist, Ngan gives us snippets of life on the other side, through some of the former novels side characters, including Aoki and the Demon King, himself. While at first this threw me off a bit, I soon found them a welcomed change of pace, a break from the tension that continues to build within our groups walls.
A few of the questions still lingering for me:
-Where are all the steels? They aren’t really mentioned in the story this time around, and I’m really curious as to know which side most are on.
–WHY are Lei and Wren still together?!
–CAN I PLEASE KNOW WHAT HAPPENS RIGHT NOW?!
While my previous review mentioned how flat I felt Lei to be at times, I must say that she continued to hold her own. Yes, at times I still felt that stagnant character arc, but Lei was bolder with her thoughts and her actions this time around. Lei showed a little more initiative, even if that initiative ended them up in deeper shit. True to her character tho, Lei did not stray from her innocent, naive and sometimes clueless outlook on their mission and the events that unfold during it.
Her determination was something to admire, regardless of whether or not she was injured, mad, frustrated or heartbroken, she continued to train and fight for her goal.
She had serious blinders on when it came to Wren. Wren was morphing right in front of her, and she takes far to long to realize that something is very off with her lover. NOt to mention she doesn’t fight Lova waltzing in on her territory.
I am keenly interested to see where Lei goes in the final novel. I see so much potential and build up in her character that I can only see her exploding at a phenomenal rate in the finale. I also feel like there is still something not quite released from her as well, so I do think that something big is coming for our MC -but I do hope it is not at Wren’s side. <3
Aside from Zelle, my heart beat only for Wren in GoPaF. This did not change in GoSaS. While my heart was captured by another during this tail – hehe- I will admit my heart also grew in size for Wren. We learn so much about her character, her wants, her true motives. I will not lie, it was thrilling for me to watch as Lei’s realization dawned on her – that her princess may not be as pure and good as she imagined. Wren’s character arc is impressive, to say the least, and it was one of the shining points of this novel.
**Unpopular opinion – Lova and Wren should be together forever. Sorry, Lei. I’m not typically in it for the ex drama, but Lova was a Moon Caste Cat Demon, a lesbian, a badass pirate and so much more. She is the epitome of what should be by Wren’s side and I will not apologize for that! **
Be still my beating heart. I don’t typically get attached to side characters, they aren’t invested in, they typically are just guides to the next MC moment, but this group of supporting stars are just that STARS. I obviously did not include all of the characters, only the ones that meant something to me, but so many of them were perfection!
Move over Lei and Wren, there is a new BAE in town. Bo.
Bo is the heart and soul of this novel and I don’t care who you are and what you say. Bo. Is. Everything. From his snarky wit, deadpan humour and at times horrible slap stick, to his loyalty, heart and protection of those he loves.
Bo is one half of a Cat Clan twin sibling duo. Nitta is the other (and female) half of the adorable cat duo, and just as snarky and wonderful as Bo is. However, there is something just SPECIAL about my Bo.
Bo is a side character so he does not have a huge character arc – the one that he does have made my cold heart melt. [spoiler alert] He and Merrin are ADORABLE! I could go on and on about Bo, but that would give more spoilers and I really don’t want to be –THAT GIRL– so just read the book and vote for him in the next Presidential Election, OK!?
Speaking of Merrin, how adorable is this snarky and grumpy ass bird?! One of the things I really loved about Merrin was his willingness to call people on their shit, regardless of who it was. There were many times that actions were taken by certain characters where – had others been the target or victim – the outcomes would have been extremely different. It was unfair and he made that known. Merrin was that voice of reason and the voice of truth when no one else wanted to hear it. I really hope we see more of Merrin in the future.
And now we have a whole world to set ablaze.
Ngan’s writing did not disappoint. From the brilliant prose, sassy commentary, and quick wit – Ngan ability to pull us in with her words is a skill that continues through GoSaS. The uncanny reality set in the fantasy world Ngan created hits closer to home than some readers may feel comfortable with – this means she has done her job, and done it well. While there were times I was pulled out of the story, it was easy to submerge myself again- each page ending pulling at my desire to read faster, longer, deeper into the tale.
One of the things that drew me into the first novel was Ngan’s ability to describe the setting and world around them – the most stunning example from GoPaF being the enchanted tree.
“In the middle of the courtyard is a tree unlike any I’ve seen before. Though its trunk is like that of a normal maple, with old, grooved bark of deep brown wrapped around knotted branches, the leaves that adorn it are paper. Enchanted paper. […] the leaves flutter and rustle as if caught in a wind, humming with the golden light of magic, each one with something written across it.”Girls of Paper and Fire, P. 224
Similarly, I was pulled into the beautiful settings of the regions they visited, the most enchanting of them being the Cloud Palace.
…the clouds open to reveal a vast skyline of serrated shards and snow covered mountains. In its center, an elaborate white structure clings to the tallest peaks.Girls of Storm and Shadow, Ch. 9
The Cloud Palace.
[…] White Spires. Marbled alabaster walls. Gilded balconies ringing tall, elegant towers. Delicate bridges run from turret to turret, and glittering staircases wind around the outside of the palace.
I was really surprised at the character development for some of our characters. My exact feelings on this book are really hard to pin down, because there was so much I wanted to rant about regarding Lei, but so much I wanted to RAVE about regarding so much of the rest of the book! I really felt that overall, this was a SOLID sophmore novel and a really good story, despite it being a “journey” book. I am very eager to see where the third book goes.
After the heart pounding, gut wrenching, and sometimes viscerally shocking events of Girls of Paper and Fire, the girls are back to finish what they started. Through brilliant prose, a plot that keeps you turning the page, action scenes that fill your heart with adrenaline, and new characters that will steal your heart as quickly as the old ones, Girls of Storm and Shadow is an instant hit. Even if you come for Lei, you will stay for the rest! A solid 4/5 stars!
About the Author:
Natasha Ngan is a NYT bestselling author and yoga teacher. She grew up between Malaysia, where the Chinese side of her family is from, and the UK. This multicultural upbringing continues to influence her writing, and she is passionate about bringing diverse stories to teens. Natasha studied Geography at the University of Cambridge before working as a social media consultant and fashion blogger.
She recently moved to Paris, where she likes to imagine she drifts stylishly from brasserie to brasserie, notepad in one hand, wineglass in the other. In reality, she spends most of her time getting lost on the metro and confusing locals with her French.
She is represented by Taylor Haggerty at Root Literary. Her YA novels THE ELITES, THE MEMORY KEEPERS, and GIRLS OF PAPER AND FIRE are out now. GIRLS OF STORM AND SHADOW will be published in November 2019 by Hachette.
Follow Natasha at: http://natashangan.com or on Twitter: @girlinthelen
*Disclaimer: Quotes from GoSaS are from ARC and may not be accurate to the published book.