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The mesmerising New York Times bestseller!
Each year, eight beautiful girls are chosen as Paper Girls to serve the king. It's the highest honour they could hope for...and the most demeaning.
This year, there's a ninth.
And instead of paper, she's made of fire.
'A timely reminder that, in the right hands, the fantasy genre has things to say about injustice and abuse of power in the real world' GUARDIAN
Lei is a member of the Paper caste, the lowest and most persecuted class of people in Ikhara. Ten years ago, her mother was snatched by the royal guards, and her fate remains unknown. Now, the guards are back and this time it's Lei they're after - the girl with the golden eyes, whose rumoured beauty has piqued the king's interest.
Over weeks of training in the opulent but oppressive palace, Lei and eight other girls learn the skills and charm that befit a king's consort. There, Lei does the unthinkable - she falls in love. Her forbidden romance becomes enmeshed with an explosive plot that threatens her world's entire way of life. Lei, still the wide-eyed country girl at heart, must decide how far she's willing to go for justice and revenge.
In this rich fantasy from Ngan (The Memory Keepers), the citizens ofIkhara comprise three castes: the oppressed, fully human "Paper" class; "Steel," a human-animal mash-up; and the reigning "Moon" caste, made up of anthropomorphic animals called demons. Every year, the Moon caste's king claims eight "Paper Girls" as concubines. It's an alleged honor, but when the military collects golden-eyed, 17-year-old Lei from her family's herbal medicine shop, she's devastated. Her father will suffer if she resists, however, and she wonders about finding her mother, also taken, so Lei relocates to the ruler's Hidden Palace. Although she dreads being summoned to the brutal king's bedroom, Lei finds comfort in the friendship of her fellow courtesans particularly the secretive Wren, with whom she falls in love. Ngan's plot is tense and tight, her action sequences are elegant and adrenaline-soaked, and her story's stakes increase exponentially through the pulse-pounding conclusion. She champions self-empowerment while condemning classism, homophobia, and the commod i fication of women. What most distinguishes this book, though, is how incisively and intoxicatingly Ngan writes about love. Ages 15 up.