Girls of Paper and Fire

Natasha Ngan. Little, Brown/Patterson, $18.99 (336p) ISBN 978-0-316-56136-5
In this rich fantasy from Ngan (The Memory Keepers), the citizens of Ikhara comprise three castes: the oppressed, fully human “Paper” class; “Steel,” a human-animal mash-up; and the reigning “Moon” caste, made up of anthropomorphic animals called demons. Every year, the Moon caste’s king claims eight “Paper Girls” as concubines. It’s an alleged honor, but when the military collects golden-eyed, 17-year-old Lei from her family’s herbal medicine shop, she’s devastated. Her father will suffer if she resists, however, and she wonders about finding her mother, also taken, so Lei relocates to the ruler’s Hidden Palace. Although she dreads being summoned to the brutal king’s bedroom, Lei finds comfort in the friendship of her fellow courtesans—particularly the secretive Wren, with whom she falls in love. Ngan’s plot is tense and tight, her action sequences are elegant and adrenaline-soaked, and her story’s stakes increase exponentially through the pulse-pounding conclusion. She champions self-empowerment while condemning classism, homophobia, and the commod­i­fication of women. What most distinguishes this book, though, is how incisively and intoxicatingly Ngan writes about love. Ages 15–up. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/20/2018
Release date: 11/06/2018
Genre: Children's
Compact Disc - 978-1-4789-9269-1
Compact Disc - 978-1-5491-7635-7
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