Overall Enjoyment: 3/5
World building: 4/5
“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? “
I received this ARC for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Okay, I have so many mixed feelings!!!! So MANY!!!!! First, I was extremely honored and excited to receive this ARC. I really enjoy Natasha Ngan’s writing style and Girls of Paper and Fire was the first sapphic book that I actually felt a connection to which really gave this series a special place in my heart. However, reading this book was really tough for me. The first half was great, but as the book went along I increasingly struggled.
Lets talk characters. I will say that we are introduced to many new ones and I enjoyed the ones that I would consider the mains though as usual I wished we had more about them. I love my character development. You’ll see Merrin, the owl demon who rescued Lei and Wren at the end of Girls of Paper and Fire. You get leopard demon siblings, and a shaman as well, I will say that I think Lei is the most consistent and enjoyable character in this book. She does what needs to be done, but has the heart that make you fall in love with her. Wren though. This book was so hard for me mostly because of her. I don’t want to give away spoilers, but lets just say we learn a lot about her in this book and it was hard for me to swallow. We get some morally gray characters going on here which normally I honestly love, but I just felt angry honestly. I felt angry for the last half of this book and I wasn’t compelled by these characters’ arguments.
The world building was good. We get to explore more of the world that had been built with the first book. You get to see more of the country which is enjoyable in its geographical difference and you will notice that there are different cultures sprinkled throughout the book though they weren’t super developed I did enjoy them.
As for diversity this book does well. We get to meet a couple more lgbtq+ characters as well as Lei and Wren both being women of color as well as lesbians. There are also characters who are experiencing mental health disorders. A story with some good intersectionality.
Overall, I’m frustrated. I loved Lei and Wren, but this book was a tough read for me and left me on a note that was frustrating and dissatisfying. I believe there will be a 3rd book and I will read it just to see where this goes, but honestly I really considered just not reading anymore past this point. I’m writing this write after I finished the book so I’m definitely on an emotional high, but heck this book hurt.