I picked this up at BAM! because the cover looked cool, the blurb sounded interesting, and the author was living in Paris. Since I had just gotten back from Paris, I figured, Why not?
I don’t regret it.
First off, I have to say, this novel is written beautifully. I mean it. There are authors that can write, and then there are authors that sing. And Natasha Ngan can sing like Whitney Houston. Her word choices are so unique. I can only describe it as beauty on paper. She really has a talent for painting a picture composed of letters, commas, and periods. You don’t have to be a fan of YA fantasy to enjoy this kind of writing.
Let’s dive in.
Natasha Ngan creates an interesting world, separated into castes – Moon, Steel, and Paper. Moon is at the top of the social classes, followed by Steel, and then lowly Paper. The Moon castes are animal form demons – bulls, wolves, foxes, and other Moons of varying, humanlike forms. Paper castes are human, and that’s about as fantastic as they get. The Steels are a mix of the two, a result of Moon/Paper breeding I’m sure. Some may not be a fan of this system, but I thought it was an interesting take on social classes. It’s all the result of a war many moons before the story is set.
In order to promote some type of good relationship between the castes, the demon king allowed girls from the Paper caste to be his concubines. Paper girls. Because that’s what oppressive rulers do. They take from the lower class and make them feel like it’s an honor when it’s really just another form of oppression. Sorry, Mr. Demon King, you haven’t met Lei.
Because of her golden eyes, she is selected to be a Paper girl. While some find it an honor to serve the kingdom in this fashion, Lei does not. Her need to keep her family safe is the only thing keeping her within the palace’s lavish walls. Well, that and fellow Paper girl, Wren, whose poise, beauty, and mysterious nature entrances Lei enough to think unthinkable thoughts.
I’ll be honest, it was difficult reading at times, because of the topics at hand. These girls are victims of sexual abuse at the hooves of this demon, and while some of the girls may not think it that way – they are. Natasha Ngan writes it out in a way that isn’t cringeworthy, so major kudos there. I’ve read and watched other stories dealing with this same topic, and it’s just brutal. After reading the novel, continue reading to hear the author’s thoughts. She explains it very well, and helped me to understand the need for a novel of this nature. Well done.
Now I will say, I’m a fan of action, and you don’t get a lot of that with this book. There is a little taste here and there, but this isn’t Hunger Games or Throne of Glass. It’s not meant to be either, and that’s understood pretty early on.
I won’t spoil anything. I did enjoy the ending. It really cracked open the world, and I’m stoked to see where the characters will end up in the sequel, The Girls of Storm and Shadow. That will be out late 2019. There are a few storylines/character arcs that I’m wondering how they’ll carry out. I have my own thoughts on how, but I’ll save those for myself.
It’s a solid read, and didn’t take me long at all. It’s one of those books that you can pick up and not need to put it down (just one more chapter!). I procrastinated my own writing because of this book, so for everyone that’s waiting for Karxen Chronicles Book 2 you have Natasha Ngan to thank for the delay. 😅
Wren is my favorite character. She added a cool and mysterious air to every scene she was in. I think her arc in the sequel will be an interesting one.
Lei is a good mix of “You go, girl! Get it!” and “Woah, you probably shouldn’t do that… it’s not gonna end well.” But she never gives up, even when faced with such intense odds.
The demon king. He’s malicious, charismatic, powerful. Freakin jerk! He’s the villain that butters you up before he sinks his teeth in, making his feast that much more painful.
The story flows well as Lei tiptoes around the palace, biding her time as the king chooses girl after girl to spend his nights with. What’s happening in the world beyond the palace walls helps her cause of avoiding him, but she knows that her time is coming. It’s this buildup that keeps you on edge throughout the book, wanting to know… And then secrets unfold, thoughts stir, and all of a sudden we’re racing to the finish line, our friends, our words, our bodies weapons against the king and his evil rule.
I’m really glad I picked this book up!
It’s helped me push some writing boundaries of my own. Pick it up and read it. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.