The Girls of Paper and Fire did the impossible. They escaped. But out in the unforgiving wild, hunted like prey, Lei and Wren learn that the most terrifying prisons have no walls.
Lei, the naive country girl who became a royal courtesan, is now known as the Moonchosen, the commoner who managed to do what no one else could. But slaying the cruel Demon King wasn’t the end of the plan – it’s just the beginning. Now Lei and her warrior love Wren must travel the kingdom to gain support from the far-flung rebel clans. The journey is made even more treacherous thanks to a heavy bounty on Lei’s head, as well as insidious doubts that threaten to tear Lei and Wren apart from within.
Meanwhile, an evil plot to eliminate the rebel uprising is taking shape, fueled by dark magic and vengeance. Will Lei succeed in her quest to overthrow the monarchy and protect her love for Wren, or will she fall victim to the sinister magic that seeks to destroy her?
Girls of Storm and Shadow is the sequel to the New York Times bestselling Girls of Paper and Fire, by Natasha Ngan. Events pick up exactly where the first book finished — Lei has just stabbed and slayed the King and she and her beloved Wren have escaped the palace.
Once again, Natasha’s writing is incredible — she’s so good at crafting prose that flows seamlessly and evokes emotion in the reader.
The series explores a few significant themes — it explores the notion of doing terrible things in order to achieve a good outcome, and it also explores trauma and how trauma remains with the victim long after their suffering has ended. Lei may have escaped the King’s clutches, but she’s still traumatised and haunted by the sexual violence that she endured under the King’s rule.
“Shivers pluck my skin as the words sink in. Naja tore me away while I was still attacking him. When Wren and I were escaping the grove, Kenzo keeping her occupied in battle, I had seen the King’s body on the ground, blood splattered and immobile.”
Setting is one of the strengths of the series, alongside characterisation and illustrating trauma compassionately and realistically. Girls of Storm and Shadow moves quickly through different locations, from vast deserts to snowy mountaintops and everywhere in between.
Lei’s characterisation and growth in this novel builds upon the foundations that were set in Girls of Paper and Fire. Lei is determined, strong, bold and she trusts her own judgement. She trusts others too, but she doesn’t forget what her purpose is.
In the first book, Lei was very much imprisoned — physically and mentally — by men. In this book, Lei has the freedom to forge her own path alongside her love, Wren. This book shows Lei standing up against men who seek to control and manipulate her.
“The sun is setting by the time we arrive at the Fukho Grasslands. Golden light washes over the undulating plains. It’s no wonder this region is nicknamed the Amber Sea, with the winds blowing the grass, filling the air with a rushing sound like running water, and the soft dips and lifts of the hillocks mimicking the roll of waves, all tinted in gold.”
Girls of Storm and Shadow explores the concept of good vs. evil, and how complex and complicated those two concepts can sometimes be. Lei has done things in her past she’s not proud of, and so has Wren. Can they forgive each other? Can they forgive themselves?
Romance is a strong element to this sequel and series fans will adore the connection building between Lei and Wren.
Admittedly, Girls of Storm and Shadow suffers a little from second-book syndrome. Nothing too significant really happens in the book and it very much feels like a filler book from Book 1 to Book 3. Could this series actually just be a duology? Probably. Regardless, this is a story about healing and recovering and rising up against those that oppress others.
“Across the campfire, Caen and Merrin are deep in conversation, discussing tomorrow’s route. Wren has been quiet for most of the meal. I cuddle closer.”
Natasha is incredibly skilled at writing evocative, explosive prose and bringing together an incredibly suite of characters that readers can’t help but fall in love with. This series is recommended for fans of fantasy and young adult fiction. It’s gearing up to be an explosive finale in 2020.
Thank you to the publisher for sending me a review copy in exchange for an honest review.
Girls of Storm and Shadow (Girl of Paper and Fire #2)
Hachette Book Publishers