Lei is a Paper, fully human, and she lives a simple life working in her father’s herb shop when she gets brutally taken from her home in order to become the Demon King’s concubine. Lei and the other girls chosen, titled Paper Girls, spend their time in the court learning skills to please their oppressors.
Spoiler Free Review:
I read this at the end of 2018, so I wanted to reread it before going into the next book, Girls of Storm and Shadow. I enjoyed it back then, but I think I liked it more the second time around!
Both books in this series are the only books I’ve ever seen with content warnings. I don’t know if Natasha pushed for them to be in there or if it was the publisher, but either way, I am grateful. The warnings for this book are violence and sexual assault. The sexual assault was not brought up in detail and was not used for any sort of shock value.
The two things I love the most about this book are the relationships and the creativity of the world.
There are so many relationships between girls supporting each other and it’s just so nice to see. I also really like the romance in this. I think they compliment each other really well. The first time I read this, I thought their relationship moved fast, but a fair amount of time actually passes in the book.
In this world, there are three castes: Paper, Steel, and Moon. Paper castes are fully human, Moon castes are half animal (demon), and Steel castes are mix between the two. I can’t recall any other fantasy I’ve read that has a similar setup.
I also thinks this book subverts a specific trope very well. I feel like a book about a girl becoming a concubine for the king sets up the scenario that the king is just misunderstood and the girl will come to fall in love with him. In the book, that is not the case. The king really is bad and he doesn’t have any reason for acting cruel and vicious.
My least favorite thing about this book however, is the lack of lore. There are gods, shamans, old tales and magic, but I feel like the reader only hears about them when it is necessary. The magic totally eludes me, I couldn’t tell you at all how it works. I just wish that these element were woven into the story a little bit more.
I was really glad I reread this before moving on to the next book! I am excited to see where the second book will take me.