Review: Smoke In The Sun

May 28, 2018 in Book Reviews, Fantasy, YA Fantasy

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Smoke In The SunSmoke In The Sun by Renee Ahdieh
Series: Flame In The Mist #2
Published by Hodder & Stoughton on 5th June 2018
Genres: Fantasy, YA Fantasy
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
four-stars

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 very the safety of the empire.

Following the revelations at the end of Flame In The Mist (warning, this post will contain spoilers for book one), I’ve been desperate to read book two, Smoke In The Sun.

With Mariko ‘rescued’ from the clutches of the Black Clan by her betrothed, Prince Raiden and her brother, the Dragon of KAi, Kenshin, she is taken to Heian Castle in the imperial city of Inako to face the future. With Okami imprisoned in the depths of the castle, Mariko desperately wants to find a way to free him. So she keeps up pretence of her kidnap, and works to convince Raiden of her loyalty to him and the Emperor of Wa.

I really enjoyed the conclusion to this duology. Largely set within Heian Castle and the city of Inako, it has a different atmospheric feel to the Jukai forest of book one, but it’s a setting that Ahdieh ones again captures beautifully with her descriptive writing.

The character development in this second book was so interesting. I really enjoyed getting to know everyone a bit more – with Yumi, Raiden and Roku standing out for me.

I actually discovered after I finished Smoke In The Sun that there are two short stories available that are set between books one and two – Okami and Yumi. They are available for free on the kindle. You definitely don’t need to read them for Smoke In The Sun, they are really just like extra chapters. Okami’s focusses on his ride in the wagon to the castle following his capture. Yumi’s was actually more interesting to me, it gives us a bit more of an insight into her character in preparation for the second book.

To be honest, my only real complaint about this book is that I felt the ending was rather rushed. To me, it lacked the detail that the rest of the two novels possess. I know it’s obviously at a faster pace than the rest, but I just felt like I wanted more. I was so near the end and started to doubt whether this actually was a duology; how could it finish in so few pages? But it does and I’d have liked a bit more from it.

All in all though, I really enjoyed this book and its predecessor. I loved the setting of Feudal Japan and everything that went along with it. Each character has their own individual struggles and issues, drawing me in and making me want to read more about them.

Then, of course, we have Ahdieh’s writing style which just adds to the journey of this tale. She, seemingly effortlessly, painted the feudal Japan setting in my mind, and brought her characters to life. I could smell Okami (warm stone and wood smoke), hear the creaking of the nightingale floors and envisage the colours of Mariko’s silk kimonos.

It’s an easy read, but it’s a fantastic tale and I’m definitely going to miss some of these characters.

four-stars

Review: Flame In The Mist

October 26, 2017 in Book Reviews, YA Fantasy

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Flame In The MistFlame In The Mist by Renee Ahdieh
Series: Flame In The Mist #1
Published by Hodder & Stoughton on 16th May 2017
Genres: YA Fantasy
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
four-stars

The daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has long known her place—she may be an accomplished alchemist, whose cunning rivals that of her brother Kenshin, but because she is not a boy, her future has always been out of her hands. At just seventeen years old, Mariko is promised to Minamoto Raiden, the son of the emperor's favorite consort—a political marriage that will elevate her family's standing. But en route to the imperial city of Inako, Mariko narrowly escapes a bloody ambush by a dangerous gang of bandits known as the Black Clan, who she learns has been hired to kill her before she reaches the palace.

Dressed as a peasant boy, Mariko sets out to infiltrate the ranks of the Black Clan, determined to track down the person responsible for the target on her back. But she's quickly captured and taken to the Black Clan’s secret hideout, where she meets their leader, the rebel ronin Takeda Ranmaru, and his second-in-command, his best friend Okami. Still believing her to be a boy, Ranmaru and Okami eventually warm to Mariko, impressed by her intellect and ingenuity. As Mariko gets closer to the Black Clan, she uncovers a dark history of secrets, of betrayal and murder, which will force her to question everything she's ever known.

Flame In The Mist is a book I’ve been looking forward to reading for so long but inexplicably hadn’t picked up until now. So I was kind of nervous that I might have built it up too much in my head, but actually I really enjoyed this novel.

Mariko is of the Hattori family, the only daughter of a prominent Samurai. Her twin brother Kenshin is a renowned warrior known as the Dragon of Kai. Unlike her brother, Mariko has no control over her life. A girl in her position must do as her father wishes and her father has lofty ideas for her, securing a betrothal to the Emperor’s son, Raiden.

While travelling from her home to meet Raiden in the imperial city, her party is attacked within the Junkai forest – she is the intended target. Escaping with her life as the sole survivor, Mariko suspects the outlaw Black Clan at being behind her attack. Wandering alone through the dangerous Jukai forest Mariko hatches a plan to take control of her own life and dress as a peasant boy in order to infiltrate the Clan to try and uncover who exactly wants her dead and why. Meanwhile, her twin is convinced that Mariko has survived the attack and is doing all he can to find and rescue his sister.

I really did enjoy this book. Ahdieh’s descriptions make for great scene-setting, helping to sweep the reader up in the story.

Mariko is smart and strong-willed. She’s the type of female protagonist I tend to like, one who taps into her previously unknown depth of strength. Her interactions with the Black Clan, a group of men, thieves, who live together in the woods, are interesting. Led by Ranmanu, supported by his best friend Okami, I quickly came to like this group that Mariko suspects of her attempted murder. I really like the relationship between Ranmanu and Okami, but it was the ongoing war of words between Okami and Mariko that I really enjoyed. Somewhat predictably, the mysterious character of Okami was my favourite person in this tale.

As an aside – I received a candle from In The Wick of Time that was based upon this book (in the Fairyloot box that also contained this book). Even before reading the book the “wood smoke and warm stone” scented candle became an absolute favourite of mine. Now, knowing that it is based on my favourite character Okami, I think I’m going to need to buy a new one – mine’s all burnt out! (find it here)

I’ve seen people talk about how “predictable” this book is and I guess in a way they are right, but that didn’t impact on my enjoyment of this book at all.

Two things did bother me though. They are spoilery though so I’ll hide them below.

View Spoiler »

All in all though, I really enjoyed this book. I did however find the end was a bit rushed. I felt that it didn’t have the same flow as the rest of the book. That said, maybe I just didn’t want it to end? Bring on book two!

four-stars