My sister told me I would like this book, and since she refused to read after something happened in the beginning, it was handed down to me. As the older sister, it was a nice role reversal.
This the first time I’m putting this BEFORE a review, and even though I’m sure you might’ve heard/read if you read the book, I am warning of the violence and sexual assault in this book. It’s actually pretty graphic, more graphic than I was expecting, and for anyone sensitive to that or to younger readers, I don’t recommend.
Onto the review.
Made of Paper
I knew little to nothing about this book, except my sister’s recommendation (after she stopped reading it, so that was a positive start.)
Lei-zhi lives in a small town with her father who runs a herb shop. Lei’s life is simple as she’s about to turn eighteen until a group of soldiers comes to town to take Lei away to become a Paper Girl.
In this world, humans (Paper Castes), demons (Moon Castes), and a mix of the two (Steel Castes) live together. Demons can be described as animals but still human-like as the ruler of the land, the Demon King, chooses eight girls a year to be his Paper Girls, aka concubines for a year until they retire and he chooses eight new ones and so on as the cycle continues.
Forced by threatening her family, Lei is taken to the King’s palace because of her golden eyes. Lei has no demon in her but her eyes say otherwise (and I have a theory she might but just a theory.) Lei lost her mother in a raid years before and assumed she was taken to the palace, which gives her a perk of motivation: to find out what happened to her mother.
Once Lei is there, she learns the routine of a Paper Girl and is prepared for the first (and numerous) nights the King will call her to his bedchamber, but Lei refuses to be his plaything and will do whatever it takes to escape.
Made of Fire
Okay, the premise alone got my interest. In the world of Ikhara, the Demon King rules and not many have the numbers or power to fight back. Is it disgusting what he does? Absolutely, but it also kept me reading. Most of the girls are 16-19, maybe a bit older and have done little to no sexual things, so when they start getting called, that anxiety and worry hit you and you feel the same, especially for Lei.
The first time she visits him every part of me clenched up.
During her time there she meets eight other girls and becomes close friends with Aoki, a naive sixteen-year-old, and very, VERY close friends with another named Wren.
Lei comes to terms with her feelings and realizes she’s attracted to women…and when you discover Wren feels the same, it’s exciting but worrying because they’re forbidden to have lovers while a Paper Girl.
Wren is easily one of my favorite characters in the book. She’s secretive and private and doesn’t interact with many of the girls until her interest in Lei takes over. She comes from one of the noblest families in the land, the only Paper Caste family the Demon King considers a close ally.
The world-building is also another one of my favorite parts of the book. It’s well-thought out and the Caste system is interesting to learn about. I feel like demons aren’t mentioned that much in books (at least, in this way) so seeing Lei’s opinion of them change over time as she interacts with different ones was a good part of her character.
Although I liked Lei, she also grated on my nerves. She’s one of those characters that always speak their mind, which isn’t a fault, but there were times I just wanted to grab her by the head and be like, “Don’t. Not now.” Because a lot of the times she’d either get beaten or lashed out. And if you liked Lei for this then that’s great, I can understand why people would like that and many times I commended her for it, but she also needs to learn when is the right moment.
She also wanted to know everything with Wren, making her tell her secrets that she literally couldn’t say, secrets she’s kept her entire life. It’s pretty clear why Wren is the way she is and what the secret could be, but Lei wants to hear it out of Wren’s mouth.
Finally, the Demon King. I don’t understand why he’s in power. I mean I get why, royal lineage and all that, but HOW is he still in power? He didn’t come across that scary to me aside from him being a bull so, horns and a big body, but Lei actually had a good idea on how to kill him (didn’t work out) but I just felt like one person could catch him off guard (possibly in bed with someone) and that would be it. I felt he could’ve been taken out a long time ago.
I did enjoy this book. It kept me reading (which is a big plus), the world-building is great, and I’m super happy to read a f/f romantic relationship, and it’s much different from other books I read. It’s about power and a woman (or man) not allowing a man (or woman) to take that from her (or him.) It’s about standing up for what’s right and making your voice heard (sometimes a bit too much, sorry Lei.) I guess being made of fire is a literal thing here.
I enjoyed Wren and Lei’s relationship, especially Wren. I just found her character to be very interesting.
I do recommend this book…to a mature reader. Not saying teens can’t read this, but like I said, graphic. If I read this as a fourteen-year-old, and I read some pretty graphic books my mom bought but must not have known were graphic which could be the case here, it could put a bad taste in their mouth or even be a bit traumatizing.
In the end, if a book makes me excited to read the next, and this one does, then I say it was an overall good read.