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Girls of Paper and Fire
By Natasha Ngan
Foreword by James Patterson
Read by Allison Hiroto
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Uncover a riveting story of palace intrigue set in a sumptuous Asian-inspired fantasy world in the breakout YA novel that Publisher’s Weekly calls “elegant and adrenaline-soaked.”
In this richly developed fantasy, Lei is a member of the Paper caste, the lowest and most persecuted class of people in Ikhara. She lives in a remote village with her father, where the decade-old trauma of watching her mother snatched by royal guards for an unknown fate still haunts her. Now, the guards are back and this time it’s Lei they’re after — the girl with the golden eyes whose rumored beauty has piqued the king’s interest.
Over weeks of training in the opulent but oppressive palace, Lei and eight other girls learns the skills and charm that befit a king’s consort. There, she 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.
Please be aware that this book contains
scenes of violence and sexual assault.
At night, the heavenly rulers dreamed of colors, and into the day those colors bled onto the earth, raining down onto the paper people and blessing them with the gifts of the gods. But in their fear, some of the paper people hid from the rain and so were left untouched. And some basked in the storm, and so were blessed above all others with the strength and wisdom of the heavens.
—The Ikharan Mae Scripts
Paper caste—Fully human, unadorned with any animal-demon features, and incapable of demon abilities such as flight.
Steel caste—Humans endowed with partial animal-demon qualities, both in physicality and abilities.
Moon caste—Fully demon, with whole animal-demon features such as horns, wings, or fur on a humanoid form, and complete demon capabilities.
—the Demon King’s postwar Treaty on the Castes
THERE IS A TRADITION IN OUR kingdom, one all castes of demon and human follow. We call it the Birth-blessing. It is such an old, deep-rooted custom that it’s said even our gods themselves practiced it when they bore our race onto the earth. When babies die before their first year, there are whispers like leaves fluttering darkly on the wind: the ceremony was performed too late; the parents must have spoken during it; the shaman who executed the blessing was unskilled, a fake.
Coming from the lowest caste—Paper caste, fully human—my parents had to save for the full nine months after the news of my mother’s pregnancy. Though I’ve never seen a Birth-blessing ceremony, I’ve imagined my own so many times that it feels almost like a memory, or some half remembered dream.
Picture smoke-cut night and darkness like a heavy black hand cupped round the world. Crackling fire. Standing before the flames—a shaman, his leathery skin webbed with tattoos, teeth sharpened to wolflike points. He’s bent over the naked form of a newborn, just hours old. She’s crying. On the other side of the fire, her parents watch in silence, hands clasped so tightly their knuckles are white. The shaman’s eyes roll as he chants a dao, painting its characters in the air with his fingers, where they hang above the baby, glowing softly before fading away.
As he comes to the crest of the prayer, a wind picks up. The grass stirs in a feathery rustle. Faster and faster the shaman chants, and louder and louder the rustle and the wind, until the fire whips upward, a whorl of orange-red flame dancing high into the sky before flashing suddenly out.
The starlit night.
Then the shaman reaches into the air where the fire had been for the object floating in its wake: a small, egglike golden pendant. But the pendant isn’t what’s important. What’s important is what the pendant hides within.
The baby’s fate. My fate.
Our kingdom believes words have power. That the characters of our language can bless or curse a life. Inside the pendant is a single character. One word that we believe will reveal a person’s true destiny—and if my life will be blessed, as my parents hoped when they saved for my ceremony, or whether my fate is something far darker. Cursed years to be played out in fire and shadow.
In six months, when I turn eighteen, the pendant will open and its answer will finally be revealed.
OUR SHOP IS BUSY THIS MORNING. Not even noon yet and it’s already packed with customers, the room bright with chatter, Tien’s brusque voice cutting through the thick summer air. Sunlight streams in through the slatted windows, drowsy with cicada song. Sandals slap on the floorboards. Beneath it all, like the shop’s familiar heartbeat, comes the bubble of the mixing barrels where we brew our herbal medicines. The six tubs are lined along the back of the store, so big they reach my shoulders. Five are full of pungent mixtures. The sixth is empty, filled instead with me—admittedly also pungent after an hour’s hard work scrubbing dried residue from the buckled wood.
“Almost done, little nuisance?”
I’m working at a particularly stubborn stain when Tien’s face appears over the edge of the barrel. Feline eyes rimmed with black; graying hair flowing softly over pointed cat ears. She regards me with her head cocked.
I swipe the back of my hand over my forehead. Little nuisance. She’s been calling me that for as long as I can recall.
“I’m seventeen, Tien,” I point out. “Not little anymore.”
“Well,” she says with a click of her tongue. “Still a nuisance.”
“I wonder where I get it from.”
A smirk rises up to challenge my own. “I’ll pretend you’re talking about your father. Aiyah, where is that lazy man? He was meant to refill our stock of monsoon berries an hour ago!” She waves a hand. “Go fetch him. Mistress Zembi is waiting for her consultation.”
“Only if you say please,” I retort, and her ears twitch.
“Demanding for a Paper caste, aren’t you?”
“You’re the Steel with a Paper boss.”
She sighs. “And I regret it every day.”
As she bustles off to deal with a customer, I smile despite myself at the proud flick of her neat lynx ears. Tien has worked for us for as long as I can remember, more family now than shop hand despite our caste differences. Because of that, sometimes it’s easy to forget that there are differences between us. But while my father and I are Paper caste, Tien belongs to the middle caste, Steel. Somewhere between my plain human body and the animal-like strength of Moon castes, Steel castes have elements of both, making them a strange meeting point between human and demon, like a drawing only halfway finished. As with most Steels, Tien has just touches of demon: a tapered feline maw; the graying amber cat’s fur wrapped around her neck and shoulders, like a shawl.
As she greets the customer, Tien’s hands automatically pat down that messy ruff of fur where it pokes from the collar of her samfoo shirt. But it just sticks straight back up.
My lips quirk. It must have been a prank by the gods to give someone as fussy as her such unruly hair.
I climb over the side of the tub and catch a better look at the woman Tien is talking to. Her long black hair is pulled back, twining past a pair of elegant deer antlers as slender as vine. Another Steel demon. My eyes travel over her elegant kebaya glittering with silver embroidery. It’s clear that she belongs to an affluent family. The jewels dangling from her earlobes alone would keep our shop running for a year.
As I’m wondering why someone like her has come to our shop—she must be from out of town; no one here has that kind of money—her gaze glides past Tien and catches mine.
Her eyes grow wide. “So it’s true.”
I just make out her murmur over the noise of the shop. My face flushes.
Of course. She heard the rumors.
I turn away, ducking through the bead-curtained doorway to the back rooms of our old shop building. The deer-woman’s elegance has made me extra aware of the state I’m in. Clumps of dirt cling to my clothes—a pair of loose sand-colored trousers and a wrap shirt knotted at the waist with a frayed sash—and my ankles are soaked with the camphor liquid I was using to clean the mixing barrel. Stray hairs stick to my cheeks with sweat. Sweeping them back, I retie my ponytail, and my mind slips for a moment, remembering.
Other fingers looping a red ribbon through my hair.
A smile like sunshine. Laughter even brighter.
Strange, how grief works. Seven years on and some days I struggle to remember her face, while other times my mother seems so real to me that I almost expect her to amble in through the front door, smelling like peony petals in the rain, a laugh on her lips and a kiss for Baba and me.
“She’s gone,” I tell myself roughly. “And she’s not coming back.”
With a shake of my head, I continue down the corridor and out onto the sunlit veranda. Our garden is narrow and long, bordered by a mossy wall. An old fig tree dapples the grass with shade. The summer warmth heightens the fragrances of our herb plot, the tangled patchwork of plants running down the center of the garden, familiar scents rising from it to tease my nose: chrysanthemum, sage, ginger. Charms threaded along wire to keep the birds away chime in the breeze.
A cheerful-sounding bark draws my attention. My father is crouched in the grass a few feet away. Bao wriggles happily at his toes as my father scratches the little dog’s belly and feeds him scraps of dried mango, his favorite treat.
At my footsteps, my father quickly hides the fruit behind his back. Bao lets out an indignant bark. Bouncing up, he snatches the last piece of mango from my father’s fingers before running to me, stubbed tail wagging victoriously.
I squat down, fingers finding the sensitive spot behind his ear to tickle. “Hello, greedy,” I laugh.
“About what you just saw…” my father starts as he comes over.
I shoot him a sideways look. “Don’t worry, Baba. I won’t tell Tien.”
“Good,” he says. “Because then I’d have to tell her how you overslept this morning and forgot to pick up that batch of galangal Master Ohsa is keeping for us.”
Gods. I completely forgot.
I spring to my feet. “I’ll go and get it now,” I say, but my father shakes his head.
“It’s not urgent, dear. Go tomorrow.”
“Well,” I reply with a knowing smile, “Mistress Zembi is here for her consultation, and that is urgent. So unless you want Tien to threaten to skin you alive…”
He shudders. “Don’t remind me. The things that woman can do with a fish-gutting knife.”
Laughing, we head back into the house, our steps falling in line. For a moment, it’s almost like before—when our family was still whole, and our hearts. When it didn’t hurt to think of my mother, to whisper her name in the middle of the night and know she can’t answer. But despite his joking, Baba’s smile doesn’t quite reach his eyes, and it reminds me that I’m not the only one haunted by their memories.
I was born on the first day of the New Year, under the watchful gaze of the full moon. My parents named me Lei, with a soft rising tone. They told me they chose it because the word makes your mouth form a smile, and they wanted to smile every time they thought of me. Even when I’d accidentally knocked over a tray of herbs or let Bao in to paw muddy footprints across the floor, the corners of their mouths couldn’t help but tuck up, no matter how loudly they shouted.
But these past seven years, even my name hasn’t been able to make my father smile often enough.
I look a lot like her, my mother. I catch Baba startling some mornings when I come down, my raven hair long and loose, my short frame silhouetted in the doorway. Though neither of my parents knew where I inherited my eyes.
How did they react when they first saw them? What did they say when baby-me opened her eyes to reveal luminous, liquid gold?
For most, my eye color is a sign of luck—a gift from the Heavenly Kingdom. Customers request for me to make their herbal mixtures, hoping my involvement will make them more potent. Even demons visit our shop occasionally, like the deer-woman today, lured by the rumor of the human girl with golden eyes.
Tien always laughs about that. “They don’t believe you’re pure Paper,” she tells me conspiratorially. “They say you must be part demon to have eyes the color of the new year’s moon.”
What I don’t tell her is that sometimes I wish I were part demon.
On my rare days off, I head into the valleys surrounding our village to watch the bird-form clan that lives in the mountains to the north. Though they’re too far to be anything more than silhouetted shapes, dark cutouts of wings spread in motion, in my mind’s eye I make out every detail. I paint their feathers in silvers and pearls, sketch the light of the sun on their wing tips. The demons soar through the sky over the valley, riding the wind in effortless movements as graceful as dance, and they look so free it aches some part deep in me.
Even though it isn’t fair, I can’t help but wonder whether, if Mama had been born with wings, she’d have escaped from wherever she was taken to and flown back to us by now.
Sometimes I watch the sky, just waiting, and hoping.
Over the next few hours, the bubble of the mixing pots and Bao’s little barks play a familiar soundtrack while we work. As usual, my father takes consultations with new clients and meets with farmers and rare-plant traders from out of town, Tien deals with the general running of the store, and all the odd jobs nobody wants to do are handed to me. Tien frequently bustles over to chide me on the roughness of my chopped herbs and could I be any slower when picking up a customer’s package from the storeroom? Or do I need reminding that she’s a distant descendant of the legendary Xia warriors, so if I don’t work any harder she’ll be forced to practice her deadly martial arts skills on me?
“Still sounds a lot more fun than this,” I grumble as I swelter in the storeroom sorting out deliveries—though I wait until she’s out of earshot before saying it.
My last task of the day is refilling the herb boxes lining the walls of the store that contain ingredients for our medicines. Hundreds of them are stacked from floor to ceiling. Behind the countertop that rings the room, a ladder on metal rollers runs along the walls to access the boxes. I slide the ladder to the back wall and climb halfway up, arms aching from the day’s work. I’m just reaching for a box marked GINSENG ROOTS, my thoughts drifting to what Tien will be cooking for dinner, when a noise sounds in the distance.
A low, carrying horn blow.
At once, everything falls quiet. Conversations, the slap of sandals, even the simmer of the mixing barrels seems to drop. All thoughts of food are whipped away as I freeze where I am, arm still outstretched. Only my mind moves, lurching back, returning to that day.
To claws, and screaming, and the feel of my mother’s fingers being torn from mine.
For a few moments, nothing happens. It’s just long enough to hesitate. For a flutter of doubt to lift a hopeful wing. Then the horn sounds again, closer this time—and with it comes the pound of hooves.
Horses, moving fast. They draw nearer, their heavy hoof-fall growing louder and louder, until the noise of it is almost deafening, and all of a sudden hulking shadows in the street block the windows at the front of the shop, casting the room into darkness.
Distorted shadows, like the nightmare version of what a human should be.
Stillness, and the dark pulse of terror. A baby wails in a house nearby. From further away comes a dog bark—Bao. A shiver runs down my back. He went off a while ago, probably to the food stalls to beg for treats or play with the children who ruffle his hair and giggle when he licks their faces.
My father has moved to the bottom of the ladder. His voice is low, a rough whisper. He holds out his hand. Despite the hard set of his jaw, his face has drained.
I step down from the ladder and weave my fingers through his, the quick trip of his pulse at his wrist a mirror to mine. Because the last time we heard the call of this horn was the night my mother was taken. And if that’s what the Demon King’s men stole from us then, what might they possibly take from us this time?
THE THUD OF HOOF-FALL OUTSIDE IS loud in the silence. Every detail carries: the crunch of dirt, the creak of leather armor as the riders dismount. The horses snort and stamp, but it’s easy to tell the sound of their hooves apart from that of their owners. Though lighter, their riders’ steps are deliberate. Measured. They prowl slowly up and down the street, clearly searching for something.
Not us, I think, cupping the thought like a prayer.
After just a few minutes, the figures come to a stop right outside the shop. Voices sound—deep, male.
Even without the warning of the horn, I’d be certain of it. There is strength, a power in their voices.
These are voices that bite.
“This is it?”
“It doesn’t look like much. The sign is broken.”
“The usual Paper negligence. I assure you, General, it’s the right place.”
A pause, fierce as a growl. “It had better be.”
There’s movement, and then our front door slams open, the entrance bells crying.
The effect is instant. As the soldiers shoulder their way inside, panic floods the shop, customers dropping to the floor in deep bows, knocking things over in their rush, the air filled with whimpers and whispered prayers. Something ceramic shatters nearby. I flinch at the sound, then again as my father throws an arm out to push me behind him.
“Bow!” he urges.
The demons advance. Yet despite the weight in my chest, despite the whoosh of blood in my ears, I don’t budge. The fear might be strong.
But my hatred is stronger.
Soldiers took my mother. Moon caste soldiers like these.
It’s only when my father says my name under his breath, more plea than command, that I finally lower. Most of my hair has loosened from its ponytail after the day’s work, and it falls forward past my ears as I fold stiffly at the waist, exposing the pale arch of the back of my neck, almost like an arrowmark. I dig my fingernails into my hands to stop from covering it.
When I straighten, my father is still blocking me from view. I shift carefully to peer past his shoulder, my heart clamoring as I get a proper look at the soldiers.
There are three of them, so big they seem to take up the whole shop. All three are Moon caste, alien to me with their beastlike forms—still recognizably human in shape and proportion, but more bizarre for it, the melding of human and animal creating something that seems even more foreign. Because of our shop’s popularity, I’ve had some exposure to demons, but it’s mostly been Steel castes, their bodies for the most part human, touches here and there of demon details woven into the fabric of their skin like adornments. A spark of jackal eyes; rounded bear ears; the smooth curve of wolf incisors. Tien’s familiar lynx features. Any Moon castes I did meet were simply not like… this.
These demons have stepped right out of my worst memories, nightmares made solid.
The bull-form in the middle is largest and evidently the highest ranking—the General. The bulk of him, the sheer weight in those boulderlike muscles, sends a pulse of something chilled down my veins. He wears a plum-colored tunic and wide trousers, a leather belt slung round his hips. His short bull horns are roped with charms and talismans. Snaking all the way from his left ear to the opposite jaw, a scar twists the leathery skin of his face out of shape, pulling his smile into a sneer.
I get a sudden surge of gratitude toward whoever made that mark.
Flanking him are an emerald-eyed tiger-form demon and an ugly reptilian soldier. Moss-colored scales wrap the lizard-man’s long humanoid limbs like armor. His head cocks from side to side, eyes darting all around. A serpent tongue flicks out in a flash of pink.
Slowly, the General raises his hands, and as one the room braces. “Please, please,” he says in a lazy drawl. “There’s no need to be fearful, friends.”
Friends. He speaks the word with a smile, but it tastes like poison.
“We know what happened here some years ago,” he continues, “But I assure you, friends, we do not come with violent intent. I am General Yu of the Seventh Royal Battalion, the Demon King’s finest and most honorable soldiers. Perhaps you’ve heard of us?” Silence stretches out, and his smile tightens. He settles one hand on the ivory hilt of the sword at his belt. “No matter. You will remember our name after today.”
He steps closer, moving in a heavy bovine sway. I resist the urge to shrink back. Only the wooden counter separates him from Baba and me, and it barely reaches the General’s waist. Slanting light catches on the charms dangling from his horns as he turns his head, sweeping his gaze over the shop. Then it lands on me.
General Yu freezes. Somehow this is scarier than if he’d shouted or made some move toward me; beneath his stillness, I sense something coiling in him. I jut my chin, staring back as defiantly as I can. But my cheeks are burning, my heart stuttering like hummingbird wings, and when he turns back to the room, his smile is satisfied. Gloating.
Something slithers in my belly. Why does he seem so pleased to see… me?
“W-welcome, General Yu.” My father’s voice sounds so small in the wake of the General’s, its human timbre thin in comparison with the rich bass of bull. “It’s a privilege to serve you and your men. If you tell us what errand has brought you here, we’ll do our best to help you. Then we will let you on your way.”
There’s a quiet defiance in his wording. I want to throw my arms around him, kiss his cheeks, cheer him on.
Either ignoring or oblivious to my father’s tone, the General throws his arms open. “Why, of course! We wouldn’t wish to disrupt your busy day. It must be hard, running such a popular place like this without the help of your wife. I heard she was one of the women taken that day?” he adds casually.
Both Baba and I stiffen. On the far side of the room, Tien’s fur bristles, a murderous look entering her eyes. For the first time I wish what she told me about her being a descendant of legendary warriors were true.
The General’s fingers flex on the hilt of his sword. “Yet,” he continues to the sniggers of his two soldiers, “you’ve at least had the help of your daughter. And she is a particularly… lucky girl from what the rumors say.” His voice drops, just a whisper now but dangerous and bone-deep, every word clear in the hush. “Well, old man? May I see if the rumors are true? Will you show us this daughter of yours with paper skin and the stolen eyes of a demon?”
“The—the errand,” my father starts in a desperate tone, but the soldiers are already moving forward.
“The girl is the errand,” the General growls.
And lunges for me.
Everything happens at once—Tien’s cry, Baba throwing me back, shouting, “Run!”
I spin on my heel as the General bounds onto the counter, shattering it beneath his weight.
There’s a scream. Sounds of customers scrambling to get away. A tiger’s deep-throated snarl. I lurch forward, making for the archway at the back of the shop, and dive through just as the General tears aside the beaded curtain.
Beads scatter everywhere. My feet skid, one sandal coming loose. But it’s the sandal the General has grabbed for, and I crawl back to my feet, dashing down the corridor, hands flying out to brace myself as I take the turns flying.
The back of our house is narrow. The General’s crashes and grunts fall behind me as he struggles to navigate the tight corners. Breathless, I race out into the golden blare of the lowering sun, leaping blindly down the steps of the porch.
A flock of birds scatter in a flurry of startled wing-flaps. I make it to the wall at the end of the garden just as a roar behind me tells me the General has made it out of the house. Using the web of leaves that cover the wall, I climb up, messily but fast. Vines slash my hands. Puffing, my palms crisscrossed red, I reach the top, hook an arm over, and hiss through my teeth as I pull, pull, pull—
Hands, on my legs.
I cling to the wall, but General Yu is too strong. I drop back, a hiss of air escaping my lips as I smash onto the ground.
In a second, the General is upon me.
“No!” I yell. I thrash against his ironlike grip, but he swipes me up easily, throwing me over his shoulder, and strides back to the house.
My head cracks against a wall as he squeezes through the narrow corridors. The world turns fuzzy. I catch a glimpse of the main shop room as we pass through: the broken counter, herbs strewn across the floor, pale faces peering from corners. Then we’re outside.
I twist round to see where the General is taking me. A little way down the street is a large carriage, two horses strapped to its front. They’re enormous, bigger than any breed I have seen, with wild eyes and foaming mouths, heads enclosed in metal muzzles. Two more are roped to the carriage on either side, I assume for the General’s men.
“Lei!” comes a shout.
I crane my head round to see my father and Tien by the front of the shop. The lizard and tiger soldiers are holding them back.
“Baba!” I cry. There’s blood on his brow.
His neck is strained, face flushed as he struggles to get free. “General Yu!” he calls after us. “Please, tell us what you want with my daughter!”
The lizard-man spits in his face. “What do you think he wants, old man?”
“Now, now, Sith,” General Yu says. “You know it’s not like that.” Slowly, he turns and lowers me to the ground, clutching me to his side so tightly his fingers pinch my flesh through my clothes. “I am merely collecting your daughter for delivery,” he tells my father. “I heard rumors of her pretty eyes and thought she would make the perfect gift for our Heavenly Master.”
Baba’s face falls. “You—you can’t mean…”
“You should be smiling, old man. The girl is to become what so many in our kingdom dream for their own daughters. She’ll live in the Hidden Palace of Han. Lead a privileged life of service to our gracious leader… outside of and in the royal bed.”
Tien goes still.
“No,” my father breathes.
Praise for Girls of Paper and Fire:A New York Times BestsellerA Barnes & Noble Most Anticipated YA Fantasy of 2018
*"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. What most distinguishes this book, though, is how incisively and intoxicatingly Ngan writes about love."—Publisher's Weekly, starred review
"This glittering commercial romance has real stakes, and the lavish, intriguingly conceptualized world will capture readers. Love stories between women are still disappointingly few in fantasy, and romance and action fans alike will find much to savor here."—Booklist
"Thrust into the beauty and horror of the Hidden Palace, will this Paper Girl survive? Ideal for those seeking diverse LGBTQ fantasy stories."—Kirkus Reviews
"Girls of Paper and Fire is as lush--and brutal--as the Demon King's own court. Ngan is a stunning new talent."—Kiersten White, New York Times bestselling author of And I Darken
"This gorgeous book is everything I want in a fantasy. Beautiful, lush, lyrical with fantastic world building and an epic forbidden romance, I devoured every word and was left desperately wanting more."—Ellen Oh, author of the Prophecy series and co-founder of We Need Diverse Books
"Lei and Wren's romance unfolds tenderly... and their wonder at finding love in such a terrible place rings true... [All] lead[s] to a terrifically nail-biting cliffhanger, setting all the pieces in play for a combustible sequel."—Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
"Lush...a novel you need to read."—Heidi Heilig, Shondaland.com
"Ngan's story is rich, is beautiful, is devastating and magical, and one of the best novels in 2018."—Hypable.com
"Get ready to be pulled into a lush, magical world, where two concubines must hide their forbidden love if they want to survive the Demon King's treacherous court. A fiery, spellbinding read."—Julie C. Dao, author of Forest of a Thousand Lanterns
"Against a back-drop of impressive world-building, reminiscent of Imperial China, this is a riveting, thought-provoking, diverse novel of female subjugation and empowerment that should appeal to mature teens"—VOYA
"Damn... Good read, highly recommend."—Olympic-gold-winning snowboarder Chloe Kim
"Ngan's demonic world is sharp and compelling, and her Lei is my sort of heroine, attacking her (steep!) learning curve teeth-first."—E.K. Johnston, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Story of Owen and Star Wars: Ahsoka
"With deliciously deep world-building and a cast of fierce young women fighting to take charge of their own story, Girls of Paper and Fire cuts you deep and leaves you breathless for more." —Ashley Poston, author of Heart of Iron and Geekerella
"A beautifully written, powerful story unique against all the current YA fantasy out there. You must read this."—Joshua Khan, author of Shadow Magic
"Lei's story is gorgeously woven in Ngan's emotionally nuanced, crystalline prose. This book broke my heart, made me cry, and had me completely spellbound from the first page."—Lana Popovic, author of Wicked Like a Wildfire
"Queer girls falling in love while kicking ass and resisting oppression in a rich, magical, and Asian-inspired world. What more could you ask for?"—R. F. Kuang, author of The Poppy War
"Gorgeously written, gripping, brutal--a sapphic love story I couldn't stop reading."—Samantha Shannon, NYT bestselling author of The Bone Season
- On Sale
- Nov 13, 2018
- Hachette Audio