Natasha Ngan’s Girls of Paper and Fire is really the OG sapphic YA fantasy. I feel like when it came out in 2018 it was one of the first books to lean into what is now an established sub-genre, especially considering the lead time needed in traditional publishing. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and its sequel, Girls of Storm and Shadow, when they first came out, and so I was super excited to read the last book in the trilogy. I do have to admit, when I first started Girls of Fate and Fury, I struggled to follow along – so I squeezed in a cheeky reread and read the whole trilogy over the past week. And I think I loved them even more this time around!
Massive thanks to Kate Keehan and Hodder for sending me an eARC of this via NetGalley, all opinions are my own.
RELEASE DATE: 23/11/2021
STAR RATING: 5/5 ✶
SUMMARY: The final pages of Girls of Storm and Shadow brought a jaw-dropping conclusion that had the fates of Lei and Wren hanging in uncertainty. But one thing was certain – the Hidden Palace was the last place that Lei would ever consider home. The trauma and tragedy she suffered behind those opulent walls would plague her forever. She could not be trapped there with the sadistic king again, especially without Wren. The last Lei saw of the girl she loved, Wren was fighting an army of soldiers in a furious battle to the death. With the two girls torn apart and each in terrorizing peril, will they find each other again or have their destinies diverged forever? (from Hodder)
OPINIONS: I loved Girls of Fate and Fury. In fact, I loved re-reading the whole trilogy, but this conclusion to the series was the best book out of all of them. It took all of the themes and things I enjoyed, and went into them in more depth and detail. This still is the wonderful sapphic YA fantasy centred around Lei and Wren that readers have loved since the beginning, but this really dives into the themes of abuse and trauma. Not only are Lei and Wren dealing with their pasts and present, but many of the side characters actively show and experience the consequences of what happens to them, and their treatment at the hands of the king.
Natasha Ngan is a master at writing with compassion. The way she writes about trauma, abuse and disability never feels like it’s condescending or lecturing, but accepting. As someone with mental health issues, I really empathized with the wide range of responses the former Paper Girls had in the wake of Lei’s return – none of them considered lesser because they struggled. Another character became paralyzed, and after the first shock of everyone around them, the acceptance and love that emanated from the characters was wonderful. Not many authors manage to strike this balance and it is clear that this series is a true labour of love for Ngan.
And damn, the story. It’s fast-paced – faster than the previous two books – and extremely addictive. I really liked that this switched between Lei and Wren’s PoV for the first time, as they are apart for the first time in the trilogy. It really allowed both their stories to shine, and Ngan to explore the struggles they faced. And while, obviously they are the OTP and fated to be together, reading about them striving to reunite and longing for the other is so damn delicious. Combine that with revolution, overthrowing an evil king and friendships in all their iterations, and you have a fantastic conclusion to a great trilogy.