This was a very interesting book. I’m still not sure how to feel about it. This story was very dark for YA. Not as dark as An Ember in The Ashes but still dark in its own way. There’s a lot of physical abuse content in this book, but I do like that the author nates it at the beginning of her book before you start reading the book. She also includes at the end of it, a list of resources that people should contact if they are being abused physically or any kind of way.
This book follows the story of Lei. She gets chosen to be one of the paper girls to please the king. Every year the king selects eight girls to be his concubines, and these girls come from the paper caste. The paper caste is the lowest caste in the kingdom and they are considered to be less than any of the other caste because they are only human.
The king is very cruel against these girls, well at least to a few of them. He is from the demon caste and these “people” for lack of a better word, are some sort of mix of animal and human but most of their characteristics are animal based.
Throughout this story we see Lei and the girls develop and study to become the best paper girls they can be. Lei doesn’t want that future for herself, so she defies everything being given and shown to her. This book talks about how when everything’s been robbed from you, they cannot steal what you are made of, your core being. Lei is very determined, and although she’s very young she makes very adult decisions. The situation that all these girls were put in, none of them had the option to choose if they wanted to be there or not. So, it is hard for them to thrive. However, Lei finds her voice and fights for what she believes in and doesn’t let fear get in her way.
The writing quality was great, Ngan uses very good descriptions to describe the characters emotions and to describe the way they look too. World-building was a confusing a little bit just because mainly of the way she described the demon caste. It was hard to decipher how they would look as animals, but besides that, it was very interesting.
This book took me longer to read than others because it was a book that didn’t necessarily catch my attention. I was expecting it to be more fantasy based in terms of what actually happens during the book. She wrote a whole book that I would’ve condensed into two chapters and then write about what we really care about which is what happens after the book ends. I felt like this book a really long prologue if that makes any sense. I would recommend this book if you like fantasy, Red Queen, An Ember in the Ashes, Blood Rose Rebellion. Anyone 14 years and older could read it.