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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? 

Title : Girls of Storm and Shadow
Author : Natasha Ngan
Series : Girls of Paper and Fire (book two)
Format : ARC
Page Count : 416
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : jimmy patterson
Release Date : November 5, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis/Micky
Rating : ★ ★ / ★ ★

Hollis’ 2 star review

There was a quote I immediately thought of when I finished this book. It comes from Pitch Perfect 3 courtesy of Anna Kendrick who says :

Oh, honey, that was.. we didn’t like that at all.

I’m not as disappointed about this as I might have been had I actually liked book one to begin with. But I did hope the story, or plot, would transition into interesting avenues, or at least properly process trauma and/or grief. And it didn’t. I feel like little to nothing actually even happened in this instalment beyond journey chapters, training sequences, inappropriately timed jokes and banter (some of which felt so modern for such a distinctly historical-ish/fantasy story), and a few reveals that might have been surprising had I not clocked them through some poor attempt at being sneaky with foreshadowing.

I’ll admit I’m also disappointed this is not the duology I thought I would be and that I still have another book to read to finish this series (and I will read it) but that’s more a me problem than anything else. Though arguably it’s all a me problem.

I’m not enamoured by the writing, the plot, the bloated cast of characters and names that I lose track of, and while one of the few things in book one that won me over was the romance, in this one.. I don’t know. I feel the cracks that have begun to show are perfectly natural and expected considering both trauma, events, and losing the blush of one’s first love/exiting the honeymoon stage, but.. I don’t know. I don’t think these characters even like each other anymore? They just lust after each other and call it love. That sounds harsh but considering the genesis of their relationship, it might not too far off base. And also, hey, nothing wrong with lust? Just call it what it is?

Anyway, suffice it to say I’m still waiting to be won over by this series and at this stage I can only hope it ends well. It’s a pretty low bar for me at this point.

** I received an ARC from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

Micky’s 2 star review

I felt that GIRLS OF PAPER AND FIRE left the reader in a good spot. I started the second book, full of excitement about what was to come and full of hope for more in terms of the relationship between Lei and Wren, as this was something that wasn’t realised for me in book one.

I am sorry to say that GIRLS OF STORM AND SHADOW was a disappointment and a ball of reading frustration for me, probably exacerbated by the high hopes I had for this second in the series. The story started well with Wren and Lei in exile and hiding. It was a rather slow start but in retrospect I found this slow start preferable to the chaotic pace and storyline that ensued.

One of the things I wanted and expected from this book was to truly feel the relationship and emotional connection between Lei and Wren. I did not get this and their intimacy was faded and jaded for me. I feel awful writing this and it is with no malice, but with this lack of tangibility in their relationship, I slowly retreated from my connection with them as characters.

The story itself was disjointed and kind of repetitive, from lull to battle again and again. I was bored reading it and began to care less. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, a very contraversial trope appeared and it sealed the deal for me.

There were some things I liked, the castes, Merrin, Bo and Hiro. I liked the glimpses of Lei’s nemesis and would have liked more of this. I will be back to read the final instalment because at this point, I have invested but it will be a read with trepidation. That said, I really enjoyed book one, so I know there is possiblity of full circle.

Thank you to Hodder Books for the early review copy.

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