Blanca y Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore

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ARC provided by Macmillan in exchange for an honest review.

“If I wanted to, I could believe it was our colors that decided Blanca would be the gentle sister, pure and obliging, and I would be the cruel one, wicked and difficult. She would be the blessed daughter, the one the swans would spare. And I would be the one the swans would take. But my sister saw our story ending another way.”

Blanca y Roja is the best retelling I’ve ever read in my entire life. The way Anna-Marie McLemore reimagined Snow-White and Rose-Red was perfection in every sense of the word. This story is so beautiful and is a bright shining star in 2018 literature, and now one of my favorite books of all-time. No one weaves words and magic like Anna-Marie, and no other book this year has impacted me the way Blanca y Roja has. Please, friends, pick this masterpiece up upon release.

“There will always be two daughters. But we will always take one back.”

This book stars two sisters, who were born into a family where each generation of women birth two girls, one of which gets taken away by swans after her fifteenth birthday. Many sisters form a rivalry, so that the swan will pick the other one, but these sisters want to trick the swans into not knowing which one to pick, therefore, hopefully picking neither. But this story follows four people, all feeling a little out of place in their own bodies; all for very different reasons.

Blanca – Light skinned, fair hair, soft, sweet, and doing everything in her power to make sure the swans never take her sister away.

Page – A transboy, who uses he/she and him/her pronouns, and currently hiding from her family who supports that she’s trans, but can’t understand why she would still like she/her pronouns.

“Him and her, I kinda like getting called both. It’s like all of me gets seen then. Doesn’t usually happen, though. Most people can’t get their head around boy and she at the same time, I guess.”

Roja – Dark skinned, hair so red it looks black, hard, angry, and doing everything in her power to make sure the swans never take her away.

Yearling – A boy who has a terrible home-life. He is constantly physically fighting with his cousin, being egged on by his entire family, and because of it he is suffering vision loss in his left eye. Content and trigger warnings for physical abuse. Yearling wants to escape his family, their last name, and a secret that he knows, and he goes into the woods wanting to be something else. And the woods listen.

“The day I went into the woods, it was the story that chose me.”

And these four characters’ paths all cross with one another, and this becomes a story about self-discovery, unconditional love, and sacrifice. And two romances start, and they are both so equally breathtaking. All four of these characters are so expertly created that they all carved out little pieces of home in my heart. And they will live there forever.

Like I said above, this is a reimagining of Snow-White and Rose-Red, but this is Anna-Marie’s ownvoices, Latinx, queer, magical realism version. And it is everything. Everything. This book emphasizes respecting people’s gender and sexuality journeys, because gender and sexuality can both be so very fluid. This book proves how easy, but how important, it is to ask and respect everyone’s pronouns. This book highlights how we don’t have to be what our families, our communities, our world want us to be and that we can break broken and toxic cycles. This book shows how everyone will handle pain, grief, and trauma differently and that it’s okay. This book reminds us how powerful kindness can be and how the bonds of family, both blood and found, can change every story.

“That was the cruelest thing about the señora’s words, the truth it had left us: In my hands, the blue-eyed boy’s heart was currency enough to buy my survival. In Roja’s, it was worth nothing. And now she was the one who held it.”

And this book really is a love letter to the bonds of siblings. And not to make this review about me, but I’m very open about 1.) my brother being my best friend and 2.) me being very white passing. But my brother isn’t white passing in the slightest. Black hair, dark eyes, dark golden skin all year long. I’ve had long-term interactions with people who never knew I was Filipino until they saw my brother. And I will always acknowledge my privilege of my biraciality being white passing, but I will always love and honor my family’s culture and heritage. And like Blanca, I would give, do, and say anything to protect my little brother. Okay, I don’t want to get too sappy. But this book really is about loving all the parts of yourself; not just the physical ones that everyone can see at a glance, or the ones that everyone expects you to love. This book was perfect, but certain aspects of Blanca and certain aspects of Roja just really tugged at all my heartstrings.

“They had seen in me the softest, weakest part of my heart where I held my sister. They knew I would do anything, give up anything, if it meant my sister keeping her own body. And now they wanted me to prove it.”

Overall, no one writes and crafts like Anna-Marie McLemore. Every book I’ve read by her has rendered me speechless. I’ve never closed a book of hers that hasn’t left me with tears streaming down my face because of its beauty. Her words have healing powers, and her books remind me why reading is magical. And her author’s note is a five star read all on its own. I don’t know what the world did to deserve Anna-Marie McLemore, but we are all truly blessed to have her stories, and I’m forever grateful.

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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Buddy read with May, Julianna, Courtney, Amy, & Jen! ❤

The Lost Sisters (The Folk of the Air, #1.5) by Holly Black

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1.) The Cruel Prince ★★★★★
2.) The Wicked King ★★★★★

“Fairy tales are full of girls who wait, who endure, who suffer. Good girls. Obedient girls. Girls who crush nettles until their hands bleed. Girls who haul water for witches. Girls who wander through deserts or sleep in ashes or make homes for transformed brothers in the woods. Girls without hands, without eyes, without the power of speech, without any power at all. But then a prince rides up and sees the girl and finds her beautiful. Beautiful, not despite her suffering, but because of it.”

No one weaves words and magic like Holly Black. No one. And I don’t even have words to express how amazing it feels to be back in this world. Not only did it make me appreciate The Cruel Prince more, it also made me emotional because of all the foreshadowing for The Wicked King. This is a pivotal short story that completely immersed me, captivated me, and reinforced that this is my favorite series of all-time.

It was so smart to format this story in a letter, that Taryn is writing to Jude, but in second person. It is eerie, and haunting, and it makes the reading experience feels so much more intimate, real, and unforgettable. Every time I open a Holly Black book, I feel like I’ve stepped right into the realm of fae, and this short story was no different.

“Faeries despise humans as liars, but there are different kinds of lying. Since you and I first came to Faerie, Jude, we’ve lied to each other plenty.”

The Lost Sisters allows you to see small glimpses into important scenes of The Cruel Prince, but we get to see it all unfold from Taryn’s point of view. I see a lot of reviews say that it made them sympathize with her, but it made me feel worse for Jude. This isn’t a redemption arc. This isn’t a happy ending. This isn’t what you’re expecting. This is just an honest look at Taryn’s feelings; and if I’m being honest, they are still really selfish.

“It’s terrible to be a girl trapped in a story. But you can be more than that. You can be the teller. You can shape the story. You can make all of Faerie love you.”

But Taryn really is trying to carve out her own place in a world that she never asked to live in. Vivi, Jude, and Taryn didn’t ask to lose their mother, be ripped from their home, and forced to live among people who will never make them feel like they belong. But all three girls feel and handle things very differently. Vivi feels sadness and wishes to escape. Jude feels angry and wishes for revenge. Taryn feels inadequacy and wishes for love. And all of these things are valid, and none of things are lesser, they are just different.

“His hair was bright in the moonlight, his face as handsome as heartbreak.”

But this book also really shines a spotlight on Locke. And he truly is the gaslighting, manipulative, abusive, royal jerk. This book really shows how easy it for abusive people to be manipulative. How they can twist everything to make it feel like it is all your fault. How they can make you crave their attention. How easy it is to feel like you’re being loved, not abused.

Honestly, the most interesting element of this book for me was the introduction of Edir, and the entire secret party and all the attendees. Again, it really reinforced (to me) that Locke is totally going to end up being the big bad of this entire story. Also, I just have a really soft spot in my heart for bard-like characters. And sometimes we really do need to listen to the songs of the mothers and women that came before us, to know how worthy of a new song we all really are.

“But that night, a pebble struck my window and I saw the shape of a boy standing below, smiling up at me as though he already knew all my secrets.”

My favorite part of the book? A whisper from Cardan. God, I’m so soft and weak and on brand. It’s really pathetic at this point. Seeing Cardan in this book was hard at first, really hard, I’m not going to lie, but seeing how far he’s come? How far him and Jude have both come? Lord, help me. It is almost funny to see them interact in this short story, knowing the storm that awaits them in The Wicked King.

Overall, I loved this. I really was expecting to feel differently after turning that last page, but this was still such an atmospheric ride that I truly never wanted to end. This series, this world, these characters, everything is just a tier above the rest. This is the series of my heart and soul. And Holly Black never ceases to amaze me. I stan one fae queen, and it is her. It will always be her.

“Let’s start with a love story. Or maybe it’s another horror story. It seems like the difference is mostly in where the ending comes.”

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Content and trigger warnings for murder, death, self-harm, bullying, and grey area cheating.

Shadow of the Fox (Shadow of the Fox, #1) by Julie Kagawa

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(My amazing friend Courtney, at Curly Book Owl, gave this to me as a birthday gift!) 💖

“…The tiniest pebble, when dropped into a pond, will leave ripples that will grow and spread in ways we cannot comprehend.”

Shadow of the Fox is a bright, shining light in 2018 fantasy! Friends, I loved this from the very first chapter, and was more captivated than I have been reading any other book this year. Like, go into any bookstore, read the first chapters of this book, and I dare you not to want to immediately buy it. Goosebumps. Tears. Perfection. Those are the three words that come to mind, and I just continued to fall even more in love with this story as it progressed.

This is an ownvoices Japanese inspired fantasy about three people who come from very different backgrounds, but their stories get interwoven regardless of what they wanted. And they are forced to work together, while a demon army is set to destroy everything.

Suki – Her chapters are sprinkled throughout the book, even though I completely believe she is going to play a much bigger role in the upcoming books. Her father is a flute maker who sent her away to become a royal maid so that she could live a good life. Sadly, she now works for one of the cruelest women in all of literature.

“It was raining the day Suki came to the Palace of the Sun, and it was raining the night that she died.”

Yumeko – Half kitsune who is very good at illusions! She has lived her entire life with monks in the Silent Winds temple. But her home soon comes under attack by demons, and she is the only hope to save the world, by safely bringing part of an ancient scroll to another hidden temple.

“In this vision, I have seen blood and flames and death, demons shrieking and rivers of bones, and the world grows dark with fear. But a single fox stands above it all, untouched, a great dragon cast in her shadow. Her name is Yumeko, child of dreams, for she is our hope against the coming darkness.”

Kage – Samurai of the Shadow Clan, and one of the deadliest warriors and demon slayers ever, even though he is very young. He wields a blade, Hakaimono, that gives him even more power but is constantly testing his willpower. He has been sent on a mission to retrieve that ancient scroll, but instead finds Yumeko and promises to get her to the hidden temple. Little does he know, this little kitsune is holding what he’s after the entire time.

“I am a weapon in the hands of the Kage. My life exists only to be the bearer of Kamigoroshi and to obey the orders of the Shadow Clan.”

And when the scroll is combined together to be whole again, a dragon will rise and the person that summons it will be have any wish they desire granted, as long as their heart and soul are pure and good. If not, well, things are going to get real messy. But needless to say, many people are after these pieces of the scroll so that they can combine them to have their wish granted. And remember, a demon army is trying to end the world, so some people really need their wishes to come true. You know, for the sake of humanity.

One of my favorite things in all of literature is reading about a group of people traveling from place to place, performing smaller quests, while trying to get to their final destination. And friends, that is what Shadow of the Fox is. I fell in love with every new town and every new adventure that Yumeko and Kage experienced together. I loved seeing so much Japanese folklore and mythology celebrated and woven into each town and adventure, too! Seriously, Julie Kagawa blessed us so much with this book! And I loved the few friends and companions that Kage and Yumeko unexpectedly met along the way.

At the heart of this book, is always friendship. And how kindness and unconditional love are two of the most powerful forces in any world. Yumeko and Kage’s dynamic is one so beautiful that I don’t even have words for it. And this is the start of an extremely slow burn romance, but I’m so here for it, you all! They completely stole my heart and captivated me for all 400 pages of this story.

This book also holds a very heavy message about how we always have a choice to do right. No matter what we’ve done in our past, and no matter the sins of our family, we have our own choice to do good or to start doing good. And how sometimes a little kindness can completely change everything. And how it’s never too late to right your wrongs, apologize, and forgive. Hate is a very heavy thing to carry, but so is revenge.

“It is very hard to be human, little fox. Even the humans themselves don’t do a great job of it.”

Overall, Julie Kagawa gave me the (ownvoices) Japanese fantasy I’ve been searching my entire life for. I fell so deeply in love with this story, with Julie’s beautiful prose, with these characters, and with all the important messages that were so seamlessly woven in. This will for sure be on my best of 2018 list come December, and the next book for sure is now one of my most anticipated releases for 2019.

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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Content and trigger warnings for graphic violence, graphic murder, graphic death, loss of a loved one, physical abuse, threat of rape, talk of suicide, war themes, and a scene that might be hard for people with arachnophobia (I am sorry, Julie)!

Buddy read with May at Forever and Everly & Jen at Pinot and Pages! ❤

Beneath the Citadel by Destiny Soria

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ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

“Deep beneath the citadel, the executioner was waiting.”

Beneath the Citadel really impressed me throughout. Not only is this a really solid and satisfying standalone, and not only does it have some pretty amazing rep, but the story is also so unique. Every time I opened this book up, I never wanted to put it down.

The book starts out with four of our main characters being thrown into the dungeons, after being sentenced to death. Yet, this was completely their intention. From the opening scene, throughout the rest of the book, these group of five ragtag teens come together to try to pull off a quest that will completely change everything they’ve ever known.

Cassa – PoC, and the leader whose parents left behind a huge rebellion legacy for her to try to live up to. Cassa is brave, and strong, and willing to do anything to erase the pain she feels inside, while also attempting to make the world a better place.

Vesper – Cassa’s old best friend, who has betrayed them and who is put in a dangerous predicament because of her past with Cassa. I don’t want to say much else, but Vesper is a really cool character, who I loved learning more and more about.

Alys – Plus sized, PoC, ace spectrum, has severe anxiety, and the genius of the group! Alys also is a bit if a prophetess, even though it has lead her astray in the past. Also, her parents are apothecary rebels.

Evander – Bisexual, PoC, the charmer of the group, and is Alys’ brother! Also, he has a bit of magical power with manipulating silver that he received for a cost.

Newt – Gay, a contortionist, and the sneaky rogue-like one of the group! Also, living with past trauma of an abusive parent. (And probably my favorite of the entire group!)

“He learned how to hold a world of hatred inside of him without a single crack in his exterior calm. Sometimes he felt like that was his greatest accomplishment. And sometimes he wished the Valeras hadn’t done him the favor of letting his father live.”

But beneath the citadel, something else lurks deep below. Cassa and her friends are offered two bargains, both of which they are unsure of taking. But time is ticking, and they have to make a choice; to help what everyone thinks is a monster down below, or to help what Cassa knows is a true monster above. And this story is told in the span of five days, so decisions happen rather quickly.

Yet, I do think that this is a book about friendship, found family, and how important it is to surround yourself with people who will accept you and unconditionally love you. These five teens have all been dealt very different hands in life, but they’ve all come together and truly try to make this world a better place. I honestly loved this entire cast.

“I’ll tell you the story,” he said. “I can’t promise you’ll believe me, but I promise it’s all true.”

I’ll be honest, this book reminded me a bit of Six of Crows and Senlin Ascends, which I’m not sure there is a more desirable combination on this planet. The characters all won me over so quickly. The story had me constantly questioning, while unable to put the book down, because I had to find out what the truth was. And this book had some pretty amazing (and heartbreaking) twists and turns along the way.

Overall, I really enjoyed this and would completely recommend. Not only is it unique, but Destiny Soria really took the time to put in some amazing diversity and representation in this book. I personally loved the bisexual representation, and the m/m romance was so pure and completely stole my heart. And I’m so impressed with what this author was able to deliver, both character and world building wise, in a standalone. This was a wonderful ride that I hope you all pick up come October 9th!

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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Content and trigger warnings for loss of a loved one, torture, abuse, murder, death, captivity, medical experimentation, panic and anxiety attacks, depictions of blood, and heavy depictions of grief and trauma.

Buddy read with: Kaleena at Reader, May at Forever and Everly, Julianna at Paper Blots, & Jules at JA Ironside! ❤

The Antidote by Shelley Sackier

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ARC provided by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

“Keep your secret close, for your enemies are all around you…”

This wasn’t a bad book, nor was it offensive by any means, it was just way too over the top. I felt like I was reading a magical soap opera. And the twists and turns felt so forced and so unrewarding.

In this world, there are four kingdoms, but one of the kingdoms has been under quarantine for almost a decade. Ten years ago, a plague almost killed everyone, but they were able to get most of the children out, and able to give some of the people who were unable to leave an antidote that saved their lives. And it is still mandatory to take a tonic every day.

“Fireli’s Three Seclusion Rules: You must never leave the castle grounds of Fireli, or the confines of your hamlet if you live outside the castle. You must never use more than the barest of Fireli’s meager resources. You must always take your antidote.”

This story does a few flashbacks to let us know what life before the epidemic that put the kingdom on lockdown was like. And we also get to see how friends and family were separated, only able to correspond through letters. This book follows Ophelia, but we also get to see three other’s lives that impact hers.

Ophelia/Fee – The star of this book, who has spent the last ten years of her life training under her kingdoms healer, so that she can one day take over. Fee also notices that she might be doing some magical things; some on accident and some on purpose.
Xavi – The soon to be King, since he will be anointed king on his next birthday. Also, he suffers from chronic illness that makes him fatigued frequently.
Quinn – The Princess who is promised to Xavi. Her mother is queen of one of the other three kingdoms.
Rye – Prince, and Xavi’s brother, who is promised to Fee. He hasn’t seen Fee or Xavi for the last decade.

“For the last ten years, Fireli had been caught in a time warp where every day had been the same. They needed change—craved change. They were on the brink of it.”

And Fee and Xavi are going to see Quinn and Rye for the first time in ten years. Yet, when Quinn makes it to the kingdom first, Xavi’s health takes a turn for the worst. Fee and the healer who she has been training under are unable to heal him. But they soon realize that this is a personal attack, maybe after the profit that is in the mines that have been closed from operation for the last decade, and the only way to solve who is behind it is to play along.

Oh, and the witches, or magic users, in this world are sentenced to death! So, Fee needs to be extra careful on her quest to heal Xavi, while also figuring out who she is and what she is able to do! This is when the twists and turns get so over the top that you will be side eyeing the entire time while reading. When I said this reads like a magical soap opera, I truly wasn’t kidding.

“Sometimes the answers are right in front of us, child. For that is the best place to hide secrets.”

And like a lot of things in this book, the romance was so forced. Like, I was totally on board with the arranged marriages, but it was like the author had to prove that the couplings were in love, too, for no reason. Especially with Fee and Rye and how their first meeting went after they haven’t seen each other since they were eight and ten, a decade ago.

I know this review is short, but the book also feels short while reading. I feel like there is nothing else to say, sadly. This book was just completely not for me and my reading tastes. It felt and read very beginner level YA fantasy, for me. But I hope that if you pick it up that you will enjoy it more than I did. Happy reading, friends.

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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Content and trigger warnings for plague epidemic, loss of a loved one, murder, death, captivity, brief self-harm that draws blood, a fatphobic conversation in chapter 11, racism (a theme of “mixed blood” not being okay), and war themes.

Buddy read with Candance at Literary Dust, Jules at JA Ironside, & Kayla, at Books and Blends! ❤

Rule (Rule #1) by Ellen Goodlett

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ARC provided by Little, Brown in exchange for an honest review.

“Three girls. Three deadly secrets. Only one can wear the crown.”

Whoever said this was Three Dark Crowns meets Pretty Little Liars was 100% correct. Except, I quickly learned and remembered that Three Dark Crowns is done much better, and Pretty Little Liars is one of the most annoying shows to have ever aired on this planet we call Earth.

Rule is a story about three girls, who have all been raised in different parts of this world. Yet, their stories and locations are coming together when they all realize they are half-sisters, who were fathered by the King himself. And all these girls are harboring a very dark secret, but someone else secretly knows what each of these girls have done and is slowly letting them know. Oh, and all these girls must compete to win the crown, because the king’s health is quickly deteriorating.

Zofi – Has lived her life with a band of Travelers, who never stay in one place for long. She also is in touch with her magical abilities and is not afraid to tap into them.

Akeylah – Grew up East of the kingdom, believing she killed her mother during childbirth, and her “father” never let her forget it by constantly abusing her. Also, she is lesbian, pan or bi, but for sure likes girls.

Ren – Lived under the king in Kolonya, being a maid to other royal women. She for sure knows the innerworkings for the palace and has some pretty powerful friends in the right places. Ren was easily my favorite sister.

“Family either strengthens or kills you, nothing in-between.”

I won’t lie, I was so intrigued by this at first, especially because the secrets are pretty damn good and extremely big. But after reading 300+ pages of annoying cat and mouse, I just didn’t care anymore. I truly believe this book had a lot of potential for me to enjoy, but the irritation outweighed the interest in the end.

I will say that the story does move quickly, and I easily and effortlessly read this book. And these three storylines are told in alternating order, where the themes are pretty parallel; how they all get to the palace, their secrets, their romances (because you knew they were all going to have a romance), etc.

Also, I knew there was a f/f relationship going into this, and you all know I’m forever and always here for all things f/f in fantasy, but this romance felt skeezy from the start. I’m just going to say it: the romance is between Akeylah and her father’s current wife, AKA: her stepmom. And they are close to the same age, and marriages are totally tools in this world to secure power instead of love matches, but you know what? It still felt really bad to read. I never thought that I wouldn’t enjoy a f/f, consensual, romance, but here we are. And that magic in this book is really not great, in my opinion. Like, not only is it really triggering for some, because you have to cut yourself open to harness the power, but it’s never fully explained and leaves too much to the imagination. Also, content and trigger warnings for self-harm, abduction, parental abuse (physical, verbal, mental), loss of a parent, death, murder, and war themes.

Overall, this just wasn’t for me. And I truly hope with everything that it will be for you. I’ve seen some really glowing reviews for this one, so take my review with a grain of salt. But for me, personally, this was easily one of the most disappointing reads of 2018.

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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Buddy read with JuliePages and Pens, LillyLair of Books, & EliseThe Bookish Actress! ❤

Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

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ARC provided by Hachette in exchange for an honest review.

“We might be Paper Girls, easily torn and written upon. The very title we’re given suggests that we are blank, waiting to be filled. But what the Demon King and his court do not understand is that paper is flammable. And there is a fire catching among us.”

Once I heard that this was an ownvoices Asian inspired fantasy world where two girls, who are forced to be concubines to a demon king, try to overcome it all and fall in love, I knew this was going to be a book for me. But friends, I fell in love. Girls of Paper and Fire will make it onto my best books of 2018 list come December.

In this world, there are castes that people are born into which determine your social standing in the world:

Paper – Humans. Lowest class. They look just like you and me.
Steel – Half human, half demon. Middle class. Look mostly human but will have a little bit of an animal attribute.
Moon – Demons. Highest class. Take on animal characteristics.

“Demon men can take what they want. Our homes. Our lives. Our bodies.”

And each year, the demon King takes eight paper girls to be concubines; some willing, others completely unwillingly. And these eight girls will live an entire year in the palace, living somewhat in the life a luxury, waiting to see if the King will call one of them to his chamber every night. And the impression they leave on the king will impact how their future goes after the year is up. And no girl can afford to make a mistake, because they will be punished in unthinkable ways.

This story stars a young girl named Lei, whose mother was ripped out of her life and taken by the king seven years ago. She has since grown up in a remote village with her father. But even though Lei is Paper caste, she has golden demon eyes that make her very unforgettable. So, palace guards eventually come for her. And this year, Lei gets taken to become one of the King’s paper girls.

“But perhaps the gods have forgotten us, or grown bored with our small corner of the kingdom. Because here I am, about to share the last thing I’d ever want to offer the King. Myself.”

To me, this is a book about rape, and rape culture, and how rape survivors will reclaim their bodies in all the different ways. And how rape is always about power, never about sex. This book is about how rapists can be charming, good looking, friendly, and have the entire world at their feet. It doesn’t matter. This is a book about reclaiming your body after someone forcibly takes it. And how everyone heals differently at their own pace.

Content and trigger warnings for rape, attempted rape, sexual assault, slavery, sex trafficking, abandonment, heavy grief depictions, loss of a loved one, murder, abduction, captivity, torture, branding, violence, a forced medical/health exam, physical abuse, graphic animal death, and war themes. Please use caution, this book can get pretty dark at times. Make sure you are in the right headspace.

“Order was restored the only way the King knew how. Bloodshed.”

This book is also about finding love; for others but also for yourself. And it is about finding your worth and knowing that you are worthy of love regardless of what has happened to you in your life. The world can be such an ugly place, but unconditional love still hides within it, and it’s so very beautiful. And love is always worth not only a risk, but it’s worth everything. And the f/f romance in this? One of my favorites of all time. It’s slow burn, but I say that in the best way possible. Without a question, my biggest ship of 2018 is within this book’s pages.

“Her kisses heal the parts of me that the King broke. They tell me: You are strong, Lei. You are beautiful. You are mine. And, always, most important: You are yours.”

And not only is the story amazing; Natasha Ngan’s writing is out of the world. I was completely captivated by the world and felt completely teleported into this world. And the masterpiece that she created? So damn impressive. My amazing friend, May let me in on some of Natasha’s inspirations with the paper girls and the regions they are from, and I’m just blown away. It’s so impressive the amount of work and love this author truly put into this story. This is seriously a work of art, and it just made me appreciate and love this world, characters, and book even more.

Overall, this meant so much to me. From the messages and the themes, to just me seeing queer, Asian girls falling in love against a world that wants to tear them apart, it meant everything. Yet, this book does end on a massive cliffhanger, so be warned. But it has hyped me so much to see what Natasha will do next! And book two will for sure be one of my most anticipated releases of 2019. But in the meantime, I can’t wait for the rest of the world to fall in love with the start of this amazing story.

“Our kingdom believes words have power. That the characters of our language can bless or curse a life.”

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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Dude read with Em at Runaway with Dream Thieves! ❤