Title: Girls of Storm and Shadow
Author: Natasha Ngan
Pub date: November 5, 2019
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Note: I received a free copy of the book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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 was really hyped for this one, as I absolutely loved GOPAF and the world that Ngan created…one that wasn’t kind at times and reflected the horrors that many women have faced and are still facing today. As such, I expected the second book (especially with the way the first book ended) to really open up and explore darker themes on Lei’s journey.
The book didn’t disappoint in that regard! Lots of action and romantic moments with hardly a dull moment. Lei also starts to work through her trauma with Wren and learns to still fight despite what happened to her in the past. You really come to care for some of the side characters, as they begin to develop their own romances, hopes, and dreams. I also thought Ngan fleshed out more of the kingdom very well. Most of the first book took place at the palace but this one has the characters trekking all over the place, which really helps set things up for the third book.
I think the only real let-down with the book, and why it gets 4 stars instead of 5, is that Lei was such as bad-ass in the first book, but makes all sorts of bad choices in this one that seem a bit contrary to her initial character. She frequently makes bad decisions that put her friends in danger and fails to see the bigger picture. That, and she never really seems to learn from her past mistakes. While I’m sure Ngan is trying for character development with this, it got a bit tiresome to see a character who was so smart and selfless in the first book just be kind of selfish and impulsive in the second book. It felt a bit like a step back for Lei, in terms of character development.
Overall, I think this was a solid sequel and I’m looking forward to seeing how the series plays out.