The world of Ikhara is so vividly drawn, I was increasingly worried about main character Lei’s safety as I feverishly turned pages into the wee hours of the night. I recommend GIRLS OF PAPER AND FIRE not only as a compelling, gorgeously written YA novel, but also as an exceptional world building mentor text. And I’m not the only one who feels that way! Look at the buzz this incredible book is creating:

In the fantastical world of Ikhara, full humans are referred to as the lowest Paper caste, named for how easily they can be torn apart. The demonic rulers are called the Moon caste, notable for their animalistic traits and strength. The middle caste, a blend of Paper and Moon, is known as unbreakable Steel.

Girls of paper and fire closeup

The human heroine, Lei, is brutally torn from her country home and carted to the hidden palace to become one of eight beautiful concubines to the bull-like, superstitious Demon King. Known as Paper Girls, each of them is called to serve him for a year: a true honor to some, an unimaginable horror to others. What makes our heroine so physically appealing are her eyes, a physical manifestation of the fire within her soul. The more we discover about the Demon King’s ruthless, thoughtless destruction of towns and individuals without provocation, the more we despise him. We can’t help but cheer on (and fear) for Lei when she gives in to a forbidden love, dares to resist the Demon King, and becomes embroiled in a dangerous plot to overthrow him. There are so many threads in this novel, and the nail-biting conclusion intriguingly leaves a few of the threads dangling. This is the what the book jacket says, and overall, I couldn’t agree more:

Lush, poetic, and utterly unforgettable, Girls of Paper and Fire is an extraordinary tale, reminding us that pure love and passion can transcend even the bleakest of fates.

The much anticipated sequel GIRLS OF STORM AND SHADOW will release on November 5, 2019, and I can’t wait to snap it up. While I adored this novel, it did contain rape, prostitution, violent executions, and other difficult issues that could trouble young and sensitive readers. However, I felt that these issues were treated delicately, believably, and with the appropriate level of detail.

Natasha NganIf you’d like to learn more about the author, go to or @girlinthelens. If you read this wonderful book, I’d love to discuss it with you!


  1. I keep hearing about this book… and after reading your review, Laura, I can see why! It sounds like a page turner for sure (and lots of awards and notoriety to back that up). I will definitely have to read this!

    Liked by 1 person

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