This review contains spoilers.
Girls of Storm and Shadow, by Natasha Ngan, is a YA fantasy and the second book in a series called Girls of Paper and Fire. It is set in a fictional world called Ikhara, but the locations and names vary as the book progresses. The main character, Lei, is on the run after killing the King of the Paper Girls at the end of the first book. Along with her lover, Wren and her friends, they are on a mission to gain support from rebel communities after news spreads among the Paper caste about what Lei has done.
However, the plot takes a twist when Lei discovers something shocking, which changes the entire course of their mission. As the story progresses, the characters within the story, particularly Wren, Nitta and Merrin, undergo transitions which force Lei to question her choices and role within the group. The relationship between Lei and Wren also evolves, taking a path which twists and turns, leaving the reader unsure as to what will happen between them until the very end. Lei herself is a soft, warm character who has quickly had to grow accustomed not only to the demands of Paper life, but the harsh realities of the world beyond. As a result, she is deeply affected by what her actions may cost her.
When a death of a beloved group member occurs, the group as a whole is completely divided. Individuals are seen to have their own motives for wanting to join the mission, and they are not always with good intent. Throughout the story, Lei sees the consequences of not only her own actions, but the actions of those she believed to be good people, which lead to devastating losses for people she cares deeply about. Her own morals and judgment come into question, which leaves the reader wondering just how innocent Lei really is.
This book has been my favourite to review so far. I loved Girls of Paper and Fire, so I had high expectations for Girls of Storm and Shadow and the book did not disappoint. Ngan writes with a fluid, effortless style that makes the story completely immersive, allowing the reader to become lost in her fantasy world. All of her descriptions of characters, food, clothing and even setting use language which is rich and unconventional, but not complex.
If I had any further comments about the book, it would be the shifts in POV which occur at brief intervals throughout the story. In my opinion, they weren’t entirely necessary and the story could have been told just as well completely from Lei’s perspective. But this is a matter of personal preference and it certainly didn’t make the book any less enjoyable.
I also really liked the incorporation of LGBT characters. Whilst inclusive, it didn’t detract from the storyline and the sexuality of the characters didn’t feel forced.
The book’s ending hints that they may be more, and I really hope there is. I highly recommend the Girls of Paper and Fire series to anyone who enjoys fantasy.
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. It is available on Amazon.