For my first reviews of 2020, I’m sharing another instalment of my Mini Review Mondays, after reviving it last month! In case you haven’t seen any of my previous posts, I do ‘mini’ reviews of books that I’ve read, loved and usually promised to review ages ago.
Today, I’m focusing on two absolutely stunning stories, starting with Wilder Girls, which is published in the UK exactly one month from today. I managed to read it early, as I borrowed my friend’s ARC.
Trigger warnings: The author has a full list of content warnings on her page, which I am very impressed by. While this needs to become normalised, I have immense respect for authors doing this type of thing.
It’s been eighteen months since the Raxter School for Girls was put under quarantine. Since the Tox hit and pulled Hetty’s life out from under her.
It started slow. First the teachers died one by one. Then it began to infect the students, turning their bodies strange and foreign. Now, cut off from the rest of the world and left to fend for themselves on their island home, the girls don’t dare wander outside the school’s fence, where the Tox has made the woods wild and dangerous. They wait for the cure they were promised as the Tox seeps into everything.
But when Byatt goes missing, Hetty will do anything to find her, even if it means breaking quarantine and braving the horrors that lie beyond the fence. And when she does, Hetty learns that there’s more to their story, to their life at Raxter, than she could have ever thought true.
This book is soaked in a bloodcurdling, unnerving atmosphere of paranoia and secrecy the whole way through that I utterly loved.
The two main POVs that we follow were brilliantly complex, unreliable narrators that I throughly enjoyed listening to. Power reflects their unique perspectives with her style of writing and I really enjoyed this clever reflection. On top of this, the relationship that blossoms felt honest and natural.
Wilder Girls is a complete breath of fresh air into the YA genre. it’s like nothing I ever read before. Power’s writing just burrowed itself under my skin, intoxicating my mind and leaving me unable to fully step outside the world of the Tox. The pace is relentless, but there are still moments for the writing to just breathe. It’s a violent, bloody book that’s completely captivating.
This is a book that you will devour, as long as you don’t let it devour you. It’s so evocative and entrancing that I promise you won’t be able to look away from.
The next book I will be discussing is Girls of Storm and Shadow and as this is a sequel, the synopsis does includes spoilers for Girls of Paper and Fire.
Girls of Storm and Shadow by Natasha Ngan:
Trigger warnings: alcoholism, sacrifice, death, grief, PTSD, torture, sexual assault, self-harm
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?
Look, I love Girls of Paper and Fire, which quickly became one of my favourite series of all time, so I was nervous about the sequel. Luckily, I had nothing to worry about, as this was an absolutely beautiful continuation of the series.
I really enjoyed the character development in this book, particularly that of Lei and Wren. There was such excellent discussion of the effects of trauma and the different coping strategies people take on to cope with it. Their romance, as ever, was stunning, though I liked that it wasn’t always easy-going. The new characters were also really interesting and I loved the whole found-family trope, creating a ragtag bunch of travellers that I genuinely cared for.
As ever, the world-building was intricate and rich, allowing me to delve deeper into the story and understand more of the sheer scale of Ngan’s imagination. I loved Ngan’s lush writing, picking out so many beautiful quotes.
Girls of Storm and Shadow is a somewhat quieter, character-driven sequel that I will hold close to my heart.