Sep 3, 2019

Review--Smoke in the Sun by Renee Ahdieh

For weeks, seventeen-year-old Mariko pretended to be a boy to infiltrate the notorious Black Clan and bring her would-be murderer to justice. She didn't expect to find a place for herself among the group of fighters—a life of usefulness—and she certainly didn't expect to fall in love. Now she heads to the imperial castle to resume a life she never wanted to save the boy she loves.

Ōkami has been captured, and his execution is a certainty. Mariko will do what she must to ensure his survival—even marry the sovereign's brother, saying goodbye to a life with Ōkami forever.

As Mariko settles into her days at court—making both friends and enemies—and attempting Ōkami's rescue at night, the secrets of the royal court begin to unravel as competing agendas collide. One arrow sets into motion a series of deadly events even the most powerful magic cannot contain. Mariko and Ōkami risk everything to right past wrongs and restore the honor of a kingdom thrown into chaos by a sudden war, hoping against hope that when the dust settles, they will find a way to be together.

Set against the backdrop of feudal Japan, Smoke in the Sun is the breathless, romantic, not-to-be-missed fiery conclusion to a spell-binding adventure.

Smoke in the Sun picks up (assumingly, since I read Flame in the Mist way too long ago) where we left off in Flame in the Mist. Okami has been imprisoned and Mariko is at the mercy of her brother, Roku, the emperor, and Raiden, her once betrothed. Things are pretty chaotic and complicated to say the least.

I remember struggling a lot with Flame in the Mist. I read it as an ARC with no glossary or other guide to help along my reading. Of course even with a guide this time, every time I went to look up a italicized word, it wasn't there and I soon stopped looking up anything because it was a waste of reading time. So I guess you could say the cultural shock was a reading impediment for me.

There's also the multiple points of view to contend with as well, and since it's third person, I felt like this made it harder to grasp who was talking. And the other thing I struggled with on that note was all the names! Oh, my goodness I forgot how many characters were in this one! There were so many names and then there were the names that those people went by, so multiple names on top of multiple names! It was definitely confusing. I would've done better with a character guide like some books do where they group the names into families or clans or whatnot to help you keep track of everyone. Had I that...I think I would've done better at following along. Since my reading habits changed, I read in spurts so while I may vaguely remember a character on day 1 of reading, but day 3 I might completely forget who he or she is! A character guide is definitely something I would've done better with than a glossary! Lol.

So onto the story now that I hashed out my points on how I struggled with this one. I felt like I was able to follow the story along best when I was in Mariko or Okami's point of view. Everyone else just left me confused and wondering who they were and who they were talking with. But the goal for Mariko and Okami was always clear; rescue the other one. Okami is taken prisoner by Roku and Raiden and Mariko's fate relied heavily on her acting skills. She must play the victim and fall back into her earlier role that she fought so hard to leave behind in Flame in the Mist.

While I struggled heavily with this one, I will say that I always enjoyed Mariko and Okami's relationship. It was such a sweet, tentative kind of romance. They were definitely the reason why I kept forging through this one! 

The ending felt a bit rushed to me when all was said and done. And then of course, there was the fact that I still wasn't 100% sure of what had happened to lead things into the chaotic mess that was running amok around the kingdom. Lots of things were happening and I can't be clear on the cause. I had my suspicions in the end and I am pretty sure it was mostly right, but yeah. This book totally messed with my mind...and not necessarily in a good way. I impress again that more than anything I would've been happier with a character guide! It was hard to remember which character point of views I was reading that were from heroes or enemies or somewhere in between. You almost didn't know who to root for if you weren't in Mariko or Okami's point of view.

I will say that I was happy with how it ended despite multiple states of confusion throughout this book. While I did struggle with this one, it in way deters me from ever reading Renee's books again as I adored her first duology and I am pretty positive I am going to love her vampire one as well when that releases next month. So don't let me addled mind and slightly unhappy review deter you from giving this re-imagined Mulan retelling a try if it sparks an interest for you!

Overall Rating 3/5 stars

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