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?
Thanks to Hodderscape for sending me a proof copy of Girls of Storm and Shadow as part of the blog tour! This review will be spoiler free for Girls of Storm and Shadow, but may contain slight spoilers for Girls of Paper and Fire.
Girls of Paper and Fire was definitely a favourite read of mine last year, so of course I jumped at the chance to be a part of the blog tour for GOSAS. The book kicks off not long after where that awful cliffhanger left us in GOPAF, with Lei and Wren on the run with a group of Wren’s rebel fugitives. Where GOPAF was definitely a character fuelled book, GOSAS is much more action packed and plot driven, which definitely progresses the overall story (however, it doesn’t take away from the more emotional side). There’s a lot more world building, with new places around Ikhara being visited, as well as more exploration into the political nuances within Lei and Wren’s world.
Natasha’s author note at the end of the book states that Girls of Storm and Shadow very much deals with the longer term effects of abuse, as opposed to Girls of Paper and Fire, which looks more closely at the immediate aftermath of it, and this sequel eradicates the idea that being free of your abuser and the place where you were abused means that you’re over the trauma. I thought this summed up an overall theme of the book perfectly – Lei was originally convinced that she’d be happy once she and Wren were out of the palace, however learning to live with what they’d been through alongside the expectations placed on them now are more difficult than she’d comprehended.
Another theme that’s seen often throughout the book is that of war, what needs to be done to achieve your goal, and whether the end justifies the means. We see Lei’s internal struggle as she comes face to face with tactics that she hasn’t had to encounter before being forced from her home, and how it affects her feelings and relationships.
Lei’s character development is dramatic throughout the book as she learns how to live with what she’s been through, even though that doesn’t mean forgetting it as she originally thought it would, and as she’s exposed more and more to what some people will do to fulfil their destiny – herself included.
Overall, GOSAS was a strong sequel that definitely developed on the first book in all the right ways. It was so refreshing and true to life to see Lei and Wren still struggling from their trauma despite thinking they’d escaped it. I honestly don’t know how I’m going to wait for the third book (especially after that cliffhanger – although I’m not sure why I didn’t expect it to be even worse than the cliffhanger in GOPAF!). Lei and Wren deserve the world and I just hope they’re not put through too much more before they can live in peace!