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Search tags: fall-bookish-bingo-2018
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review 2018-12-05 19:27
Review: Girls of Paper and Fire
Girls of Paper and Fire - Natasha Ngan

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

I went into reading this one with minimal expectations, sounded good but wasn’t really expecting much as I have read so much fantasy this year, and most of it has been a mixed bag. The premise was interesting enough as was the Malaysian inspired premise – but reading in the blurb protagonist chosen to be part of a king’s harem and does the unthinkable – falls in love with someone else.

 

Initially there was a bit of eye rolling on my part and a guess – oh she’s going to fall for some guard or male servant or a prince who’s going to wind up helping her some way. Did I ever get a surprise on that department!

 

I found myself absolutely loving this book. I had started reading by ebook review galley, to find this was the book of the month in my Fairyloot subscription box and got a signed edition with the prettiest cover and pink sprayed edges. This is one of my top ten books of this year.

 

Trigger warnings – sexual assault. There is actually a warning for this on the inside cover of the hardback.

 

The world building is rich and well developed, in this fantasy there are three castes – Paper, the lowest caste, the humans, Steele – half human, half demons  - the middle cast – these people have demoneseque features and powers. Moon caste are the highest – complete demons form. The demon form is usually some sort of animal basis.

 

The heroine Lei lives a hard but happy life in her village with her father in his shop, they are both Paper, they live with her father’s assistant, a Steele class lady who has worked there as long as Lei can remember and is like family to them. Lei’s mother disappeared 10 years ago, taken by a demon army.

 

Every year a number of girls are chosen (read taken) by the Demon King’s army to be Paper Girls – the King’s Concubines – it’s not a request if you’re chosen. Lei finds herself taken by the army, she has unusual gold eyes – goddess touched – which earns her the army chief’s attention and he takes her thinking he can gain favour with the king.

 

Lei’s world is shattered. Lei has a strong voice and is fiery and determined. She was a brilliant lead, full of personality and promise, without being overly head strong or making stupid decisions and rash actions. She’s naturally completely against being a Paper Girl but figures once she’s at the Imperial Palace she might be able to find out what happened to her missing mother.

 

Paper Girls for this year’s crop have already been chosen so Lei’s addition is unusual. Her goddess touched gold eyes make her a viable option. Some of the girls there have been training for this for years and are from high class families, and your typical mean girls. Others are colder and more remote, and one girl is nice and friendly, if very naïve.

 

Lei reluctantly starts to settle into life at the Palace – an elevated life of culture and learning. The girls have a maid who helps them, and lessons, it’s very exclusive and luxurious – but there’s something quite oppressive about it as well. As there is always the threat of the reason why they are there – to serve as concubines to a demon king who doesn’t care if this is something the girls want or not.

 

The girls have to attend various Court events after they are presented to the King. The King makes his choices and one by one the girls are called on to perform their duties. The reactions they have after their night with the King is different for each girl. It’s very uncomfortable to read about.

 

The King is a young man, very handsome, but brutal, a bully, he has moments where you think there might be more to him than a cold ruler who has very little thought for anyone else other than what he wants. But just as quickly as you get that glimpse – something happens and he’s horrible again. And gets worse and worse throughout the novel.

 

While regular Paper Girl life is going on Lei finds herself becoming enamoured with one of the other Paper Girls. This is one the best slow burn romances I’ve come across in a long time. It’s so so slow but the build of anticipation is brilliant as Lei gets to know the girl, Wren. Wren was one of the ones who was cold and dismissive at first, but Wren is as mysterious as she is beautiful. Lei’s yearning comes through so vividly, as she tries to figure out her ceilings, worrying about waiting for her own turn with the king.

 

As the romance slowly blossoms, Lei starts learning some of Wren’s secrets. The plot starts picking upwards the end. There’s a few mysteries and some plot twists and a good burst of action towards the end. And a really WTF cliffhanger at the end. Just when you think everything might actually be okay… of course it’s not!

 

I can’t find enough words for how much I loved this book. There’s not much more I can say without being overly spoilerly about the overall plot. It’s hard to read in some places and deals with some serious issues. It gets uncomfortable. Other places it’s beautifully written with a moving romance, and some lovely female friendships.

 

I can’t wait for more of this series.

 

Thank you to Netgalley and Hodder & Stoughton for approving my request to view the title.

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review 2018-10-31 19:14
Review: Mirage
Mirage - Somaiya Daud

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

I was really looking forward to this one. I got approved for a review copy from Netgalley and then I got a gorgeous purple edged sprayed exclusive signed copy from my Fairyloot September subscription box. But unfortunately, no matter how pretty the book is – I just didn’t like it.

 

I was really disappointed. I sort of went in blind with this one, I didn’t reread the synopsis before I started – I was admittedly expecting a fantasy, and I got a sci-fi. The sci-fi actually read like a fantasy novel. The world building was interesting, the characters were okay, but the plot I found tedious and boring, the romance eye rolling and predictable.

 

At just over 300 pages it’s a relatively short book and was at least interesting enough that I didn’t DNF it, but it was a big snooze for me.

 

The basics of the plot are the heroine Amani’s people and her home planet have been conquered, and leaving under the harsh rule of the new rulers, the Vath. They are workers, live in a close community, Amani has siblings and friends and looking forward to her majority night ceremony. One thing I did actually like was the details to Amani’s religion, described in detail with deep history and stories without being preachy. Her faith gives her hope when everything looks bleak.

 

Until without warning Amani is taken away with Vath soliders and removed from her home planet to the Vath royalty homeworld. Her whole world is stripped from her when she learns she’s the exact image of the crown princess Maram, who needs a body double to attend public events as there has been threats upon her life. Maram is cold, cruel and emotionless. Amani is to be trained how to be Maram – dress like her, act like her, study her know her life and her world as if it were her own. If she fails or talks out of turn, she’s punished, harshly.

 

The writing is beautiful, it’s very poetic and poetry plays a large part of the plot, but it takes so long for anything to actually happen, the pretty writing gets flowery and annoying after a while. When Amani is training in her new forced position, it’s hard not to feel for the girl. Her family has been torn from her, everything she knows has gone, she’s got no one to help or anyone who can understand the pain she’s going through.

 

Though she determined to be strong and look for an opportunity to escape. Unfortunately, one of her jobs as posing as Maram includes spending time with Maram’s fiancée, Idris. Idris has his own backstory and was one of the more interesting characters, however, as soon as Amani has her first encounter with him…it’s painfully obvious where it’s going to go.

 

During the course of her training, Amari is sent on various outings as Maram, and learns that not everything is as it seems. There’s a rebellion brewing and she could play her own part to free her people. There’s a try at a political sort of side plot once Amari gets involved in both sides of the rebellion, but there’s a lot of talking and not much action.

 

Of course everything for Amani goes pear shaped and she finds herself in a terrible position – if things couldn’t get any worse – guess what – they do! Left on a cliff hanger of course, with two more books to follow. While it was kind of boring, I must admit I’m interested in seeing where it was going.

 

There were some interesting themes on family and standing up for your believes, being strong and trying to do the right thing in tough situations. The writing as I mentioned was lovely, so there’s definite potential there.  It would work better for me as a fantasy rather than a sci-fi as that’s what it reads like. Admittedly, it’s an interesting way of writing.

 

Amani and Idris felt like the only fleshed out characters, though the romance was kind of eye rolling. Maram herself had potential as well as she does show some growth as the plot wears on but quickly reverts to how she was when the novel opens. Lots to explore in a follow up.

 

Thank you to Netgalley and Hodder & Stoughton for approving my request to view the title.  

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