Smoke in the Sun by Renee Ahdieh- 3 stars
Smoke in the Sun is the conclusion to Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh. Although I liked it, it was not -sadly- her best work.
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.
This is not an easy review to write. I loved Flame in the Mist and had high hopes for this one. There were great moments in this book, but overall it felt short. It dragged, got confusing, had too many things happening at once.
What saved it from being a terrible book? RAIDEN. Yup, you guys read it right. Moody, cruel, obnoxious Raiden made this book somewhat pleasurable. All my 3 stars are for him (ok, maybe 2.8 for him and than a little for Mariko. Hehe). We learn a lot more about him here, just how cruel he can be, but also why and how he yarns to be more.
Okami drove me bananas!!!! The boy has no spine whatsoever. He won't fight for anything and/or anyone. His life is worth nothing to him and he treats the life of those who care for him as if they were nothing too. It is not until the end that he 'grows a pair' and by that point it is too late for me to like him. And as a side note- I did like him in Flame in the Mist even though he annoyed me. It was just too much here.
Mariko was just as brave, as wonderful, and as foolish. I liked her character just as much as in the first book. There was perhaps a little to many paragraphs in her head, got boring at times, but it didn't hinder her character all that much.
The magic is... I don't even know what to say.
Actually, I do.
It suffers from saying to much, being to much, and making little sense. Be ready for plot holes.
And really, that is all I have on that.
The side characters were... disappointing. In some instances it felt like the book wanted to tell everyone's story. And a duology cannot do that without ending up with rushed stories. In other instances it didn't say enough. The ever so important Black Clan is almost not present at all.
The ending felt rushed. Short. Abrupt. It left me with an uncomfortable feeling... Raiden was a BIG part of this book and he got no ending at all.
Did I love the book? No
Did I like it? it was entertaining enough.
In the end I believe this is one instance in which a trilogy or a series would have been better. Renee created an amazing world and I felt like she tried to put way too much in this one book and in doing didn't end up with a strong enough story.