Girls of Storm and Shadow by Natasha Ngan
Published by Jimmy Patterson Books on November 5th, 2019
Genres: Fantasy, LGBTQIA, Young Adult
“Being vulnerable isn’t a flaw. It is the most beautiful thing in the world. If you were invincible, being brave would be easy.”
#AsianReadathon 2020 is over! I had so much fun this month exclusively reading works by Asian authors. I read Girls of Storm and Shadow for Challenge #3: Read a book featuring an Asian character or written by an Asian author who is different from you.
In the sequel to Girls of Paper and Fire, Lei and Wren have escaped their wretched and oppressive lives in the Hidden Palace only to discover that freedom comes at 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.
I almost never like the second book of a trilogy. I think that’s because I always see it as exposition for the third book.
So while I did enjoy reading this, it just didn’t quite pique my interest quite like the first book.
There were certainly aspects of the book that I loved—seeing Lei and Wren’s relationship deepen, the dark magic elements, and the groundwork for a rebellion—but this book was unmemorable for me.
I was really hoping that this book would contain more world-building. I wanted to learn how the casts were developed, the role of the Steels, and the history of the society.
Actually, I was pretty frustrated that there wasn’t more information about the Steels. What part do they play in all this? Whose side are they on in this rebellion? Maybe this will be further explored in the third book, but for now I almost wish they were never mentioned in the story if they don’t serve a greater purpose to the plot.
I also struggled with the pacing of this book. Sometimes, it felt like nothing was happening and then all of a sudden there was action before getting back to a lull in the plot.
But what kept me reading was Wren and Lei. I love reading about their relationship.
I think Ngan did a wonderful job exploring these two characters further as individuals and as a couple.
I will say that I became more interested in Wren because of this book. We learn surprising, unexpected, and exciting things about the character that give Wren more depth. I can understand the motivation behind her actions and why she reacts the way she does.
Which brings me to why I’ll continue reading this series even though I wasn’t feeling the second book: Ngan does an incredible job writing about the longer-term impacts of abuse. Through Wren and Lei, we see trauma dealt with in a very personal and powerful way.
I’m still on board to find out where Wren and Lei end up and I look forward to reading the final book in the trilogy!
As a final note, I want to mention that I e-mailed Ngan after reading the first book and got a lovely response from her. She’s incredibly sweet and if you’re interested in her writing process, I highly recommend you listen to her on the 88 Cups of Tea podcast.