Girls Of Paper & Fire By Natasha Ngan
I don’t think I would have read Girls of Paper & Fire if I knew what it was about.
But, if you know anything about my reading habits, I love not knowing about a book before I read it. Sometimes, I even go as far as not even looking up the plot. I had the opportunity to get a proof copy of this novel back in July at YALC. I did it all because of that beautiful cover… and because I’d heard a few people talking about it.
That has served me well in the past, and I know I’ll end up doing it in the future. There’s just something about getting into a book with no expectations; you’re not ready for anything, and in that, you’re ready for everything.
But there’s a hitch in this near perfect reading habit.
Not knowing anything about book means you are exposed to triggers, and that’s something I hadn’t thought about until reading Girls of Paper & Fire. And…look, for me, it’s not catastrophic. I’m a little annoyed at myself for not checking first, but I feel like it’s important for many to understand that trigger warnings are handy. While I’m sure others have mentioned in their reviews (but I didn’t read because *points at self* has a daft reading habit), but Girls of Paper & Fire is about a girl being stolen from her home and becoming a sex slave for the king. There is frequent talk of sexual assault happening off-page, and yes, the beginnings of a sexual assault scene before a chapter ends.
Why…did my brain think a ‘paper girl’ was a voluntary warrior position? See what I mean when I say I know nothing about some books before I go into them?
These are not books I tend to pick up. I just can’t read stories that have scenes regarding sexual assault/rape. And, while many are important and speak of a larger issue within society, I go to books for entertainment and enjoyment. I can’t find that in this type of content. They should exist, but they’re not for me.
However, Girls of Paper & Fire is also an F/F story, which means it gets a couple of stars for just existing.
If you’ve read any of my other F/F reviews, you may have noticed I struggle with them. Often, I feel the plot gets left by the wayside because the author feels like the novelty of a queer girl pairing will carry them through. And while I love my queer girls and will absolutely die for them, I like to read a well written story with them in too.
Thankfully, Girls of Paper & Fire just does that. The whole structure doesn’t lean on the book, and the plot is just as developed. A good romance can only flourish in a good story, after all.
However, one thing I just couldn’t get behind was the demon aspect of the society. There are three types of being; Paper, which is human, Moon – half ‘demon’ (animal) half human, Steel – demon…animal…humanoid…people? I just can’t picture it, even when it’s described exactly how a character looks. In my mind, they look so strange, like a horrible experiment gone wrong. Or…furries. I ended up just seeing everyone as human which, if you read the story, is a problem. Different castes are not supposed to be the same, and it’s the basis of their whole racist ranking system.
But again, that isn’t a problem with the book. It’s a problem with how I read and what I usually read. I think this is a book that a lot of people will love, and it’s deserving of that love. But would I have picked this book up knowing what it was about? Probably not. But that’s on me.