Blurb from goodreads:
After Okami is captured in the Jukai forest, Mariko has no choice–to rescue him, she must return to Inako and face the dangers that have been waiting for her in the Heian Castle. She tricks her brother, Kenshin, and betrothed, Raiden, into thinking she was being held by the Black Clan against her will, playing the part of the dutiful bride-to-be to infiltrate the emperor’s ranks and uncover the truth behind the betrayal that almost left her dead.
With the wedding plans already underway, Mariko pretends to be consumed with her upcoming nuptials, all the while using her royal standing to peel back the layers of lies and deception surrounding the imperial court. But each secret she unfurls gives way to the next, ensnaring Mariko and Okami in a political scheme that threatens their honor, their love and the very safety of the empire.
I was sent an ARC of Smoke in the Sun from the publishers Hodder and Stoughton in exchange for an honest review.
Ever since I read The Wrath and the Dawn duology, Renee Ahdieh has become an auto buy author for me! So When Flame in the Mist came out I was so excited to read it! Especially when I heard that it was a loose Mulan retelling! Mulan is one of my all time favourite Disney films so I went into that book with high expectations and I was not disappointed! I have been eagerly awaiting the release for Smoke in the Sun ever since and when I found out my request to get this ARC was approved I literally squealed with joy! And let me tell you, Smoke in the Sun was even better than Flame in the Mist!
Before reading the ARC I also read both short stories that Renee Ahdieh published. Okami and Yumi were both great short stories and I loved seeing things from their POV. They were both set in between Flame in the Mist and Smoke and the Sun. I would definitely recommend reading both!
So Smoke in the Sun was a slightly different story in the sense that Flame in the Mist had a lot more action whereas there is a lot more of political intrigue pushing the story forward in the second book. We get to see more of the nobility including the new Emperor Roku and his half brother Prince Raidan. They have great development throughout the book and actually turn out to be much more complex than I thought they would be initially. We also get to see the way the Imperial Court works, with women having their own rules and hierarchy.
Some of my favourite parts were the strong female characters, not only is Mariko a badass but she has other women around her who are just as strong but the best part was that they helped and supported each other. I loved seeing women empower women instead of the pettiness we sometimes see amongst female characters. I really loved the female empowerment that was woven throughout the story and how even though the women were considered less, they still made their voices heard.
Okay, so I thought while reading The Wrath and the Dawn, that Shahrzad was a badass but I adored Mariko just as much! Mariko is strong, independent, opinionated and smart but she has vulnerabilities and she has flaws and she knew them. She battled with them to overcome them. She loved Okami but she didn’t let that cloud her judgement for what needed to be done for the greater good. It made her so relatable and such a great complex, well rounded character.
In fact all the characters despite their individual strengths had flaws and I loved that about them. They weren’t just these invincible, perfect people. They were real people and it made the story just that much more amazing to see characters like that. I especially loved the character development of Okami and Prince Raidan.
Of course I have to mention Renee Ahdieh’s writing. I love her writing style, her vivid descriptions meant I could really picture what was going on as the story progressed.
The story itself was full of political intrigue and suspense with all the characters having to make tough decisions to ensure the safety of the people. Family ties and family loyalty is tested, not only between the Emperor and the Prince but also between Mariko and Kenshin and Yumi and her brother. We see how power can make people think they are above everything and make them cruel.
The only thing I would say is that I felt the ending happened too quickly, I wish there had been a few more pages to that climax even though I loved the way it ended, if there had been a few more pages it wouldn’t have felt so sudden.
The ending of the book was bitter sweet for me. I loved how the story ended but it also means that I won’t get to see more of Mariko and Okami and all the other characters I grew to love throughout this duology.
So this book was such a great read and one of my most anticipated books this year and it certainly did not disappoint!
This book is releasing on 7th June so there is not long to wait!
Thank you to Hodder and Stoughton for sending me this ARC.