Today I’m really excited to be on the blog tour for Girls of Storm and Shadow, one of my most anticipated books of the year. This is the sequel to the phenomenal Girls of Paper and Fire, which I loved so much I reviewed it twice, and it more than lives up to the first book’s amazingness!
Book: Girls of Storm and Shadow by Natasha Ngan
Read before: No
Ownership: Review copy sent free of charge by Hodderscape. All opinions my own.
Content warnings: Recovery from abuse (none on page but remembered trauma); alcoholism; blood magic involving self-mutilation; violence and character death.
This review will contain some spoilers for Book One – you’ve been warned!
Middle books can be tricky; they have a lot of weight to bear in terms of getting the story where it needs to go, and sometimes they can suffer because of it. I’m really glad to say that this is not the case here, and Girls of Storm and Shadow is a fantastic story in its own right, as well as building on the first book to drive the overarching plot along. It’s pacey, and exciting, and has so much character development! Lei and Wren are on the run after Lei attacked the King at the end of the first book, and along with a team put together by Wren’s father, the leader of the rebels, they must travel to three of the most powerful clans in the land to win their support in the rebellion.
Where the first book did an amazing job of capturing the claustrophobic palace and the girls’ feeling of being trapped in one place, this is a book full of movement, both physical and emotional. Wren’s been training for this her entire life, but Lei really just fell into this rebellion, and she’s still untangling her feelings about it – she really doesn’t know who to trust at this point, and she’s also still recovering from her trauma at the hands of the king. Her recovery isn’t straightforward – how could it be? – and it’s really sensitively written. She’s such a wonderfully realistic character, and even when you can see she’s making bad decisions, it all makes so much sense.
There are some excellent side characters introduced or expanded upon here, and though I was worried about how things would be with a whole new cast apart from Wren and Lei, I needn’t have, because I instantly warmed to them. We get to see a lot more of the world, as well, as the girls travel to the clans, and I want to reiterate what I said about the world-building with regard to the previous books: Ngan has a masterful way of showing huge cultural divides with tiny character actions.
I also really loved that we got some glimpses into what’s happening back at the palace. Every so often Lei’s narration is broken by a chapter focusing on another character and how the rebellion has affected them. It’s a clever way to show what’s going on without the main characters needing to hear about it, and also offers some insight into the many different ways people are coping with the situation. Among others, we have a chapter from Aoki (one of the other Paper Girls), Kenzo (the tiger demon who was a former member of the King’s guard turned rebel), and the King himself. Through their eyes we see different views of Lei that contrast with her own depiction of events, which is fascinating, and helps to bring home the message that actions on a grand scale have incredibly personal effects on individuals, something that Lei is really wrestling with in this book. She feels a huge tension between doing good and doing the greater good, and these chapters echo that beautifully.
I could talk about this book for hours, but I really don’t want to spoil how things progress. Suffice to say, this is an absolutely wonderful continuation of everything I loved about Girls of Paper and Fire, plus elements that are entirely new to this book. It’s a brilliant sequel, and has me incredibly impatient to see how things turn out in the final instalment. I love these girls so much, and I want to see them burn it all down and live happily ever after. I’m utterly hooked! Five out of five cats!