Read a full summary of Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan now! This page is full of spoilers so beware. If you are wondering what happened in Girls of Paper and Fire, then you are in the right place!
This recap was awesomely submitted by Ophélie Mélodie. Thanks!
Find on twitter at @ArchaeOphelie.
4.2 stars on Amazon
3.91 stars on Goodreads
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***** Everything below is a SPOILER *****
What happened in Girls of Paper and Fire?
Lei is from the Paper Caste, humans devoid of any animal-features and the lowest of the three castes in Ikhara. She’s also six months away from her eighteenth birthday, the time when her pendant forged during her Birth Blessing will open to reveal a single word of power symbolizing her destiny. Working in her father’s herb shop under the watchful eye of Tien, a member of the Steel Caste (humans possessing certain traits of animal-demons), Lei is often remarked upon because of her golden eyes. One day, as Lei finishes to refill the herb jars, a horn is heard, followed by the sound of hooves. The same call took Lei’s mother away seven years prior.
General Yu of the Moon Caste is a full demon possessing whole animal-demon features. Having fallen out of favor with the King, he has come to claim the girl with the golden eyes and bring her back to be a Paper Girl – one of the King’s concubines – hoping this would mend his relationship with the Heavenly Master. Lei tries to escape but to no avail. Her dog, Bao, is killed by the lizard-like guard Sith, who threatens the same will happen to her father and Tien if Lei doesn’t come peacefully. On the road, the carriage stops near a lake. Lei seizes the opportunity to escape but is caught by Sith who throws her back in the carriage and attempts to take advantage of her. General Yu stops him.
After five days at sea, they arrive in the royal province of Han. Lei is brought to the Hidden Palace of Han, the Fortress of the Demon King which is constantly protected by Shaman magic. Taken to the Women’s Court, Lei is introduced to Mistress Eira and Mistress Hamura, in charge of the Paper Girls’ education. She also meets Lill, a doe-like Steel Caste of 10 or 11 years who is assigned as her maid, and Wren, one of her fellow Paper Girls who particularly catches her attention with her Paper Caste feline eyes. She’s also confronted by the arrogant, narrow-minded Paper Girl Blue, who despises her. Lei slowly settles in her new life comforted with the hope that she might be able to find out more about what happened to her mother and maybe even find her.
This recap was awesomely submitted by Ophélie Mélodie. Thanks!
Find on twitter at @ArchaeOphelie.
The day of the Unveiling Ceremony arrives when the new Paper Girls are officially presented to the King. While on their way there, an attempt on their life is made by a Paper Caste servant, who insults Lei of being a Dzarja – traitor, a term that stays with Lei. The Paper Girls arrive at the Royal Palace, and each proceeds to give sermon to the King. Lei, unfamiliar with her long attire, trips and falls in the water. Laughed at and ridiculed by the King and the entire court, Lei vows to show the King she is strong and that he does not own her.
The following day, lessons begin, and the Paper Girl Chenna is called upon by the King to keep him company that evening, much to the dismay of Blue and the relief of Lei. The days pass, but Lei’s skills don’t get any better. One morning, she is asked to stay behind and practice her movement skills with Wren. Lei feels something in her stomach everytime she looks at Wren. As they join the other girls for lunch, Aoki, Lei’s best friend, is called upon by the King. Lei waits up that night for Aoki’s return, and when she sees a shadow walk past her door, she decides to get up and see her friend. However, it is Wren whom she sees leaving the Paper House and heading into the forest, something forbidden, and Lei wonders if she is off to meet with her lover.
During a dance performance, Lei is chosen to sit next to the King, where he sees her golden eyes for the first time. The following day, she is summoned to spend the evening with him. Her afternoon lesson consists of 3 hours of ‘night skills’ with Zelle, where she discovers she has feelings for Wren, and wonders if these are reciprocated. She is then led to the King’s private room, where she dines with him. She asks him about the raid on her village seven years ago and her mother. The King replies that if her mother had been brought to the Palace, she would have been taken to the Night Houses. Following the meal, she is taken to be bedded by the King, but repulsed by the spiteful act, she pushes the King away and runs.
Her act of defiance is not taken lightly by the King who confines her in isolation without food or comfort for a week. Halfway through her stay, while a guard goes on break, Wren sneaks in Lei’s cell and offers her some food. Lei reveals she has seen Wren head into the forest and is concerned for her, but the latter, her tone sharp, assures her she is always careful and does not divulge her business. Once her punishment served, Lei resumes her life in the Palace. During their qi lesson (a form of meditation), Master Tekoa experiences a trance. His eyes turn black, oblivious to what is happening to him. He looks at Lei and talks of a girl burning with fire inside her, and red flames in the palace.
During a day of rest, Lei asks if she can have another ‘night skills’ lesson with Zelle. But during her toilet break, she slips away and heads to Mistress Azami’s Office – Head of the Night House – to find out about her mother. She finds a scroll with a list of names, but no mention of her mother. She is caught red-handed by Zelle and quickly explains herself. Mistress Azami enters the room at this point, but Zelle gets Lei out of her tricky situation.
The King comes back from his travels, and a Koyo Celebration is organized. There, he asks Lei for a walk, where he admits he believes the Gods are angry with him, and to rectify this, he will punish anyone who disobeys him or is disloyal. Lei feels a particular threat in his voice. Later into the party, Lei heads out for a walk and finds Mistress Daya, an ancient Paper Girl now married to a general, crying, her face falling apart. She tells how her husband displeased the King who as a result refused to grant her her yearly beauty magic. Lei gets back to the party shaken, only to discover the King is giving away Paper Caste brought back by the soldiers from a raid as slaves to his guests. That night, Lei cannot sleep, so she decides to head out. She bumps into Wren and a wolf Moon Caste. The wolf threatens to kill her if she mentions anything but Lei is mostly hurt by what she saw. Wren tells Lei there isn’t anybody else; that one person being Lei herself.
A few days later, Wren takes Lei to the Ghost Court, to a tree from which hangs paper instead of leaves. One of them holds the name of Leore, who was Wren’s sister. Wren then begins to explain her story about how she was born in the Xia clan, masters of both martial art and magic, and formidable warriors. Unable to gain their skills and abilities for his own, the first Demon King exterminated them all, yet somehow Wren survived. She was found and taken in by Hanno, one of the King’s loyal supporters, aged only one. That night, Lei heads to Wren’s room, and they kiss.
The following day, Blue tells Aoki the King finds her company pleasant, which enchants Aoki but disgusts Lei. The palace is attacked. Wren leads Aoki and Lei into a trapdoor near the stage, where they are followed by one of the attackers. Wren’s eyes become white, and she fights the attacker swiftly and with fluidity, killing him. Like a proper Xia. Lei is taken aback by this sudden change of personality, and she becomes unsure of how she feels towards Wren.
Lei goes for a bath to wash off her dirt and the smokey scent and is joined by Wren who undresses and joins Lei in the bath. Wren admits she was trained in secret in both martial art and qi work, her being the only one who can yield both superbly, like a true Xia. She steps into Lei’s bath and kisses her. Shortly after, they hear footsteps and Wren jumps out of the bath as Blue enters the room. The latter can certainly tell something was happening.
Those responsible for the attack a few days prior are captured and interrogated for four days while the Paper Girls’ schedule is put on hold. The attackers are to be executed, with the whole Court watching wearing black – the exact opposite color to mourning. Wren and Lei defy the king by bringing with them a white token as a sign of respect. One of the executioners is the Wolf Moon Caste Wren meets at night.
Late that night, Lei goes to Wren’s room. On her way back, she comes across Blue, crying. She is only a pawn to her father’s promotion, expected to enjoy being a Paper Girl while her parents ignore her.
Lei and Wren continue to meet each night in secret, despite growing security measures. One evening, Lei is caught by Aoki who does not take kindly to her discovery, her feelings enhanced by the fact that she is in love with the King and Lei’s disapproval. Lei begs her not to tell the King. The next day, Lei is woken up by screaming. Mariko, one of the Paper Girls and Blue’s sidekick, is discovered to have slept repeatedly with a guard. She is taken to be marked and thrown out of the Palace.
That night, Lei decides to follow Wren in the forest and discovers she is training with Kenzo, the wolf Moon Caste. Wren spots Lei and assures Kenzo Lei can be trusted with their secret. She then tells Lei that the night of the Xia massacre, her father had been told by his most trusted fortune-teller that there would be a baby in the snow. He set out to find it – find Wren – with the intention to continue the Xia bloodline and use its skills and thirst for revenge to kill the King.
The following morning, Aoki and Lei apologize to one another. And that evening, the King calls upon Lei. She brings with her a handful of herbs to drug the King so as to avoid having to sleep with him. But the King isn’t in the mood for small talk. He tells her he was the one who ordered the raid on her village and that his soldiers have killed all the women captured. He takes Lei who is full of heartache and despair. She comes back from that night bruised and bloodied. The shamans heal her, and Lei realizes she has forgotten the bag of herbs in the King’s chambers. Wren says she’ll ask Kenzo to get them. Lei asks if she can help Wren kill the King, and after much debate, Wren agrees. She trains Lei to defend herself in the cover of the nights.
How does Girls of Paper and Fire end?
The day before the Moon Festival arrives, but Wren is absent. Lei is told Wren’s mother passed away and Wren had to go to be with her family. At Lei’s reaction, Blue clicks the secret that the two girls have been keeping. As a result of Wren’s absence, Kenzo asks Lei to step into Wren’s shoes and kill the King. Eventually, Lei accepts.
Before heading to the Moon Festival, Lei is given a small blade hidden as part of a hair brooch. She meets Blue, who triumphantly admits she has told the King about Wren and Lei’s secret. Lei sees the King discussing with a man, and a woman whom she recognizes are her father and Tien. She is about to launch at him when she is grabbed by Zelle and learns the latter is on her side. While waiting for the signal, Lei finds an opportunity to hug her father and Tien, but they are pulled apart by soldiers. Lei is given the signal to act, but she is interrupted by having to perform on stage with the rest of the Paper Girls. She loses her blade. After the performance, she goes straight to see the King and tricks him into taking her somewhere private. He takes her to the gardens, but Lei realizes she herself has been fooled. The King tries to kill her. Just then, Zelle arrives and throws a dagger in the King’s right eye but gets killed by Zara, one of the King’s bodyguards, in the process. Lei uses the blade and plunges it in the King’s throat, but is thrown off by Zara. Wren and Kenzo arrive at the scene, Kenzo fighting Zara while Wren escapes on the back of a bird demon with Lei. They both see the king’s lifeless body. On their way up, they see the Palace in flames, knowing their cover has been blown, and are given the chase by the Palace’s guards. But the bird demon is skilled and manages to lose them. They head to a deserted temple, a known refuge to those who support the Hanno’s cause to kill the King. They rejoice at the news of the death of the King, though all know a war is coming. Lei feels she has got the strength to fight and her birth pendant opens to reveal the word ‘flight.’
Back in the gardens of the Palace, Zara has killed Kenzo and kneels next to the King. She takes his wrist and notices a faint pulse. She goes to seek the shamans.
There you go! That’s what happened in Girls of Paper and Fire. Hope you enjoyed this recap of Girls of Paper and Fire with spoilers.
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