I have been putting off writing my review of Girls of Storm and Shadow for a few weeks now because I just don’t know how anything I can write will do this story justice.
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?
(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
TW: alcohol abuse, PTSD
Words will betray me in this review. Girls of Storm and Shadow is exquisite. At the heart of the story is recovery, how Lei and Wren both process their memories and scars of trauma. How it becomes ingrained into our memories, our psyche, our flesh. The flashes and constant thrumming in the shadows of the night. Girls of Storm and Shadow is a story about dreams disappearing into air and nightmares taking shape. It’s a story that looks at our heroes, our loves, and asks us what we will do for the sake of destiny, ambition, and to bring about our vision of the future.
It’s easy to fall back into rhythm with our favorite girls. To see how the characters we fell in love with have fared in the aftershocks of Girls of Paper and Fire, but what really sets Girls of Storm and Shadow apart in my mind, is how Ngan allows us to see all these complicated nuance to the characters. The ones we never understood, the ones we hate, the ones we love. All of them are spread on the page, allowed to bare their weaknesses, their doubt, their fears.
Intricate themes and characters
We can intimately witness the costs of destiny – when people are convinced they are special and chosen and how we drill or mold people into these images. What I loved about Girls of Storm and Shadow is how the themes are reflected in different characters, like shards of a broken mirror. How Naja, Lei, and Wren’s lives have changed, been influenced, or taken drastic turns in pursuit, or fear, of their destiny.
Girls of Storm and Shadow is an ode to survival. To resilience and solidarity, to trauma and nightmares, to hope and finding light. Featuring characters that feel caged in, by choices or destiny, and wondering how they can break free. Like Girls of Paper and Fire it celebrates a cast of female heroines who will inspire you and wrench your heart with an iron grip. It asks us what will we do for desire? How our desire can twist us, our intentions, make us do things in the name of ambition, love, family. To constantly push the line, say we are making the small sacrifices, the ones necessary for the greater good, but when is enough, when have enough small sacrifices been shed?
At the end of the war, we’ll all have to look ourselves in the mirror. And when we fight the darkness, the force of corruption, and cruelty, it is our duty to make sure we don’t turn into the very images of what we’re fighting against in the pursuit of justice. Treachery and betrayal from those around us hidden under the cover of night and for all the right reasons.