SMOKE IN THE SUN
Characters & their development: 5
Personal enjoyment: 4
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.
Smoke in the sun is the sequel to flame in the mist by Renee Ahdieh. It follows Mariko immediately after the events in book one. She is thrust into a marriage with Prince Raiden, left trying to save the boy she loves and is separated from the world she begins to call her home.
I finally picked this book up after over a year of waiting. And trust me guys, it was just as rich and full of life as the first book was.
I have to admit, when I started reading this again, I was so confused. I thought I remembered the plot and I did remember the basics, but there was so much from book one I had forgotten, after around 50 pages I knew I had to go read a summary of the first book. I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing, but it does make the book the kind of one you really need to read right after the first book because they don’t go over the side plots and such.
I had a little issue with this book too, it has around 5 perspectives. Normally I’m down for that, but the chapters weren’t headed it the names of the characters. Sure it’s not necessary, and if the book is well written you can tell who’s talking. But reading half a page to two pages and then having to go back and read them again because you weren’t sure what characters perspective you were following, is annoying.
I also have to admit, the villain came out of nowhere and while we got to see why he became that way to some degree, his whole story felt like a cheap tack on to add something to the story.
On a far more positive note, I really did enjoy this novel. All the characters were life like, filled with dimension and wishes. No two characters were the same and I loved that. It really sold the realistic-ness of the novel and made me fall in love with it more because I was far more attached to the characters.
The politics in this novel were very interesting too. We saw a glimpse of them in flame in the mist, but with Mariko living in the palace, we really get to see her get embedded in the world. There was much betrayal, heartbreak and secrets going around that felt like what I expected would really go on.
I really enjoyed the magic we saw. The demons and shapeshifters really intrigued me as they aren’t things that are often seen in Western culture. However I do wish we went deeper into the mythology and how the magic worked as sometimes I was left really confused by the lack of explanations.
Overall this was a fun ride but not quite as good as the first book. I think this duology is best read back to back and would recommend this to fantasy lovers of all ages.