YA Fantasy by Jimmy Patterson Books, Little Brown, 2018At the age of seventeen, Lei is kidnapped from the family and home she adores by the same Demons who took her mother seven years before.
Lei is human. Human's make up the Paper Caste, the lowest of the three Castes in the old world Malaysian-like Kingdom of Ikhara. Above her reign the Steel Caste, part Beast-part human, above them are the Moon Caste, full beasts, and above them all is the intolerable Demon King, a Bull-form Moon Caste.
Each year eight girls of the Paper Caste are selected to serve as the King's concubines. Some go willingly, others go under the threat of harm to those they love. Lei serves her king to save her family. Or at least she wants to. But, that's not what's in her heart. At the palace, Lei falls into a forbidden love. Lei is beaten, raped, and stripped of all privacy and opportunity. But the King cannot control her thoughts, her desires, her soul. And, Ngan presents in an upper YA appropriate way.
This is the story of strong women fighting what is wrong in their world. This is the story of true love between women. This is a story of determination.
Ngan is masterful in her development of characters we can't help but love. But the real artistry is in the language she uses to build us an ancient imperial world in which these characters come to life.
Her writing grabs you on the first page. The story propels itself forward in a gripping fight you want Lei to win. I look forward to finding out what happens in Lei's next battle.