So. I am not sure where to start when it comes to this book, because it is perfect and powerful and beautiful in every way. Easily my second favourite read of 2019 (Girls of Paper and Fire comes first), this story was mesmerising and heartbreaking. Be warned, mild spoilers for book one ahead, but of course none for this one.
Lei and Wren have finally escaped the Hidden Palace and the clutches of the King. Lei has joined Wren and her family’s rebellion, as they prepare to take over after the King’s death. But bonds will be tested, secrets kept and fires raged, for all is not as it seems, and the path to peace will be harder than Lei could have even imagined, with more than just her strength put to the test
“Wren and I might not be Paper Girls anymore, but we are still capable of creating fire. And now we have a whole world to burn.”
Okay, let’s start with the good (all of it was good but like, the happy stuff). The found family trope is my FAVE and we finally have it with this gang! Lei and Wren, Bo and Nitta, Merrin, Hiro and Shifu Caen have the best dynamic. GOSAS was full of wonderful, hilarious banter that lent a lighter touch to the heart-wrenching storyline.
I was so happy to see more of Lei and Wren and their beautiful romance, but it was so painful to see their troubles and what happened when they were both under so much stress. My poor heart. But these two are a truly iconic couple that means so much to sapphics everywhere and I am eternally grateful to them.
“She is my air. My shelter. Wren is my wings.”
Bo and Nitta were such awesome new characters. All the new faces were wonderful but these two were my favourites, especially Nitta. Bo is fun and positive, a constant beacon to the team as they endure countless hardships, and I love my queer demon boi. Nitta was elegance, grace, beauty, magnificence, my true love. I’m going to marry her and this is not up for debate. I was lucky enough to take part in a small tour of the GOSAS ARC in which readers have annotated the book with their thoughts as a gift to Natasha and I genuinely just underlined Nitta’s name again and again because I’m in love with her.
There are so many powerful topics in this book, that I’ll get to, but since we’re on Bo and Nitta – these two were Moon Caste, which of course is the ruling caste, and it was so powerful and beautiful to see the way they handled this privilege. There is a scene where Nitta apologises to Lei on behalf of her people, and Lei says it’s not her fault and Nitta replies something like “No, but I do not suffer like you, and I may not do enough to help.” And WOW, that struck a chord, because it is something I would love to see in today’s society.
“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.”
Natasha’s world-building is so rich and beautiful. She has created a stunning, cultural, Asian-inspired fantasy world that is always stunning and vivid in my mind’s eye. It is wonderful to see many different Asian ethnicities shown on the page in such a beautiful way. I think it is far too often in fantasy we see just one Asian race when there are so many ethnicities within the umbrella term “Asian” that are not represented or are clumped into one ethnicity, and it makes me angry.
Girls of Paper and Fire dealt with sexual assault, but GOSAS does so in a way that, if possible, impacted me more. In Girls of Storm and Shadow, Lei is suffering from PTSD after her life at the palace, haunted by a spectre of the Demon King and trying to drown her sorrows in alcohol. Wow, this portrayal of the effects of sexual assault was so powerful, and it hurt but healed me down to my very core. I’m so so grateful to Natasha for creating a high-stakes, exciting fantasy adventure which includes so many loved tropes and then not being afraid to incorporate such important topics and lift women up.
“Being vulnerable isn’t a flaw. It is the most beautiful thing in the world. If you were invincible, being brave would be easy.”
Natasha did a lot of cruel things to my heart in this book, which I cannot go into. But it hurts. A lot. I am not okay. I will NOT FORGIVE YOU NATASHA.
Girls of Storm and Shadow is a powerful, mesmerising and exciting follow up to the iconic Girls of Paper and Fire, and I beg you to pick these books up.