2.5 star, YA

Review: Smoke in the Sun by Renee Ahdieh

Series: Flame in the Mist #2

smoke in the sun -renee ahdiehFor 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.

2.5 Drink Me Potions

Set in feudal Japan with samurais and codes of honour, Smoke in the Sun continues the story of a girl trying to save the life of a boy she loves at any cost to her own life.

The novel picks up pretty closely to where book 1 ended. With the newly unveiled identity of Okami and his capture by Mariko’s brother and her betrothed’s soldiers. Jumping straight back into this Japanese inspired realm, the world and sense of magic and mystery enveloped me again like an old friend.

Most of the book was spent trying to figure out how to release Okami from capture. Through the eyes of Mariko, the wonders of the palatial life – on the surface – and the hidden secrets and gossip among its upper class were revealed in manner. I liked the lush setting and descriptions, yet at times, this really slowed down the pace of the book. A lot.

Meanwhile, other elements of intrigue unfolded as people in the land started falling into some deep sickness that inhibited the control of their own body and mind. Was this linked to Mariko’s attempted murder? Maybe something exciting was finally happening.

But as some things are, it was kind of a letdown. It was in no way a mystery (we literally see from the POV of the bad guy why this was happening – and mind you, the why wasn’t very exciting either), and how it was revealed to our main characters was neither clever nor surprising. The climax that was being set up took a swift turn for a happy ending that left me wondering if any of it was that bad before at all.

I wanted to desperately love the only element of intrigue this book seemed to have. While I fell in love with the Black Clan initially in book 1 out in the wilds, the relationship between Mariko and Okami felt more real there than it did now. Here, it’s just the aftermath of strong love but I didn’t really feel it. Maybe I forgot a lot of what it was like in the time since I read Flame in the Mist but I couldn’t care as much as I wanted.

Not all of it was a downer though. Secondary characters like Raiden made things more interesting. He wasn’t the typical person you’d necessarily cheer for (at first) or a wounded soul to save, but there’s something redeemable in some way about him that intrigued me. I don’t know about you, but I could totally wish for a book about him. Maybe with a certain someone’s sister guiding him away from less noble influences? You with me?

While I still enjoyed the atmospheric descriptions of a time of old in Japan, I can’t help but overlay and compare it with the recent book by Julie Kagawa, Shadow of the Fox. In my heart I know they’re different in their own way, but I can’t help but see this series in a new light – and where it could do better.

Some action, dramatic romantic overtures, and a land falling to chaos, Smoke in the Sun was lovely on its cover but digging deep into its story left me somewhat disappointed at the potential it could’ve been. I love Renee Ahdieh but maybe I came at this book with my expectations a little too high.

Overall Recommendation:

Smoke in the Sun delightfully drops us back into the world of Japanese samurais and magic. On a grand scale, it’s about a rescue mission for the love of Mariko’s life, with other elements swept to the side in the plot. While it set itself up for potentially exciting action scenes and an explosive conclusion with a battle for the empire, it all gets wrapped up too quickly in a nice bow to ever really feel tense about the situation at all. A decent wrap up if you enjoyed Flame in the Mist, but I suggest you read this before any other similar story set in feudal Japan.

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