“There is nothing stronger than people who endure the worst hardships in the world, and still raise their fists at the start of a new day to fight all over again.”
I didn’t like Girls of Storm and Shadow by Natasha Ngan as much as I loved Paper and Fire (review for that here). I raced through Paper and Fire in one sitting, but some of my favourite aspects of the first novel were missing from the second. Frustratingly, I couldn’t define exactly what that is. It’s taken me over two months to get this review written, because I’m really struggling to verbalise how I feel about this follow up to a book I adored.
Despite that, this was still a good book, with a more complex plot than the previous series entry and fascinating insights into the political world, and I settled on a 3 star rating.
As a rule, I’m a huge fan of series becoming more politically complex and multi-faceted in later books. The Hunger Games series is a typical example of this. But for me, unfortunately, it felt like there was something absent from this book for me. I still enjoyed it, and I’ll still definitely read the currently untitled third book when it comes out (probably 2020), but it might be a library pick up for me rather than an automatic pre-order.
Read me for the…
Much like with the first book:
- F/F romance
- Asian-inspired fantasy
- Demon races
- YA dystopia (caste system)
But also, in this sequel, add on:
- Political upheaval
- Human rebellions
- Queer boy demons 🥰
Kidnapping, sex trafficking, sexual assault, rape, violence, sex shaming, violence against animals, caste discrimination and racism, raids and mass murder. This is a heavy one again guys.
What did I love?
This book really expanded the universe that Natasha Ngan has created, and I adored that. The world is beautiful and vivid, with a caste system that is unlike any I’ve seen in other novels (I still love the bestial demons and their animal characteristics). Her descriptions were just as beautiful, and so detailed that I could feel the settings of every seen. I still remember many of the settings vividly two months later.
And I talked about the queer characterisations in my review of the first book, and I still love them here. In Storm and Shadows we get queer demons who are out there falling in love all over the place. If you like snarky banter, you’ll love them as much as I did.
What didn’t I love?
First, and this is my own tiny niggling irritation that won’t apply to most people, I felt like every character in this book was queer. And I mean every character. All the side characters, any and all characters introduced had their queer partners mentioned even when it didn’t necessarily make sense in the plot for their sexuality to be mentioned? I’m ALL FOR queer rep because I grew up without many role models like me, but it reached a point where it was kind of bugging me in a realism sort of way. Not everyone is queer. Straight people exist, and the majority of the straight rep in this book is from a sexual assault perspective. It’s not exactly a big deal, but it just felt unbalanced to me. Maybe that’s just my weird preference though, and it definitely isn’t a deal-breaker.
In my review of Paper and Fire, I talked about how much I love the dark fantasy aspect of the book. Here, I kind of felt it went too far the other way? This book was pretty dark, but not in an interesting twisty way. It kind of just made me sad. Everything is miserable for ages, and there’s love-interest conflict (why can’t we have sequels where we don’t have drama drummed up for the sake of drama) but honestly by the end of this book I’d started to become less invested in Lei and Wren’s relationship. I didn’t care any more, and for me that’s the biggest killer of a story because personally I need things to be character driven. Without delving into spoilers, a lot of characters do things I see as fairly unforgivable or unjustifiable, and I’d effectively tapped out of caring about them. I understand that ‘doing bad for the greater good’ was a big aspect of this book but it’s something I personally dislike so it meant that a lot of the characters felt… meh.
Where can I buy?
If you can, please support local independent booksellers!