Thank you to HBG Canada for sending me a copy of this ARC to review!
I also reviewed an ARC of Girls of Paper and Fire this time last year, click HERE to check that out if you are interested!
Title: Girls of Storm and Shadow
Author: Natasha Ngan
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Release Date: November 5, 2019
Content/Trigger Warnings: The final copy of GoPaF included a content warning for violence and sexual assault, so I believe this sequel will as well. Along with this though, I want to emphasize content warnings for: sexual assault, trauma/ptsd, violence, and self harm.
If you would like more specific details or exact page numbers for anything, please do not hesitate to send me a message on any of my social media.
(spoilers for Girls of Paper and Fire)
In this mesmerizing sequel to the New York Times bestselling Girls of Paper and Fire, Lei and Wren have escaped their oppressive lives in the Hidden Palace, but soon learn that freedom comes with a terrible cost.
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?
(no spoilers for Girls of Paper and Fire or Girls of Storm and Shadow)
This is going to be a difficult review to write because I went through so many different thoughts about this book while reading. On one hand, I loved the first book so much that my anticipation for this may have gotten my hopes up too high, and on the other hand, it just did not live up to my expectations based on the first book.
Simply put: this book is a textbook case of middle book syndrome. It feels like it only exists as a buffer from all the action of the first book from the upcoming action of the third book.
You know those adventure/fantasy series that have one book where 90% of it is just the main group of characters travelling across the land. This is that book. Besides a few scenes of action, a huge portion of this 400 page book is our main cast of characters travelling in search of allies for the war. Besides a few chapters with POVs from the palace, most of our perspective of this book is from the main group of characters who are often out of the loop of the going ons of the war everywhere else.
and on the topic of this war, the book was setting up what seemed to be a huge battle that would be taking place as the main climax of the novel, but when I was getting toward the last 100 pages, I soon realized that this would not actually be happening by the end, and instead wouldn’t happen until the third book (if ever). I find this the case in a lot of fantasy series, and is one of the reasons why I often am frustrated by many of these series’ that I have read. (this exact thing happens in the Three Dark Crowns series as well, and was part of why I never finished that series)
When setting up a major event in the end of book 1/beginning of book 2, and it seems as if it is set to occur as the climax of book 2, it is frustrating to have to continue to wait until book 3 to see whether or not it will take place.
That said though, I did enjoy some of the twists that occurred that in-part caused the delay of the battle. They were unexpected and really enjoyable to read. Easily the best part of this book were some of the twists that happened around the last 100 pages. I love a good twist in a book that I don’t see coming, and GoSaS was one of those. Ngan did a fantastic job setting up some the decisions that some of these characters made, and when revealed, really threw a wrench in the plans of the group. I love morally grey characters, and this book is full of them.
Seriously, if you love morally-grey heroes, this book was made for you. So many decisions are made that can be seen to help the greater good, but also make you question whether they were morally justified to make that decision. These twists were part of the reason why I am willing to look past my issue with the aforementioned battle being non-existent.
Rapid fire comments time:
- I loved the main group of characters, and thought they were all very well rounded & well written. In beginning, I loved their playful banter, but it soon turned into disagreements, and by the second half of the book, I was a little tired of the constant bickering. They could never seen to come to any understandings between them.
- I really appreciated how Wren and Lei’s trauma from the palace was not glazed over. There were some really fantastic scenes that dealt with their PTSD and how it has affected them.
- Although I adore Lei and Wren together, I’m really happy their relationship wasn’t all sunshine and roses in this book. I am glad that there was some conflict between them. In their current situation, it would be incredibly unrealistic for them to have a perfect relationship, and seeing them overcome their struggles together really made them seem more real.
- Really glad we got to see some of the paper girls again, but would have loved to see a bit more. I’m rooting for those girls so much.
- The fact that a huge portion of this book was just travelling from clan to clan made it quite slow leading up to the end. The action scenes were very well written and fast, but the scene in between those lagged behind a little. Ngan truly excels in her action/battle writing.
- Despite my less-than-enthusiastic review, I am very excited for book 3 still (and I’m already excited to see the cover).
It’s unfortunate I didn’t love this as much as I hoped, but in no way does it dampen my excitement of the series as a whole and the upcoming third book. I am looking forward to seeing how this series ends, and just hope I love the last book as much as I loved the first (that is if I am correct in thinking that this is a trilogy? please correct me if I am mistaken).
If you loved the first book and are really excited for the rest of this series, I would still recommend you pick this one up, and you will probably still enjoy it more than I did. But if you weren’t completely sold on book 1, and the points are mentioned are things you also don’t enjoy in a book, I probably wouldn’t recommend this one for you.
Let me know if you guys read GoPaF and whether you are looking forward to this release. I’m very interested to see how my fellow bloggers/reviewers/bookstagrammers respond to this book, so definitely let me know if you’ve also read an ARC and what you thought!
thank you so much for reading ❤