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Smoke in the Sun

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For 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 sh For 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.


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For 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 sh For 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.

30 review for Smoke in the Sun

  1. 4 out of 5

    Emily May

    It was a night for magic. A night swirling with mystery, an unknowable energy pulsing in its depths. Okay, I'm going to be honest about something: I remember enjoying the arc I read of Flame in the Mist last year but, before reading this book, I couldn't remember anything that happened. In fact, I wasn't sure I was going to continue with the duology. When I was lucky enough to get an arc of this sequel, I figured I'd just give it a shot. And it all came flooding back to me in a stream of drama It was a night for magic. A night swirling with mystery, an unknowable energy pulsing in its depths. Okay, I'm going to be honest about something: I remember enjoying the arc I read of Flame in the Mist last year but, before reading this book, I couldn't remember anything that happened. In fact, I wasn't sure I was going to continue with the duology. When I was lucky enough to get an arc of this sequel, I figured I'd just give it a shot. And it all came flooding back to me in a stream of drama, action and royal manipulations! It makes me sad to think I might not have continued with this series and missed out on a lot of enjoyment. I find myself remembering why I enjoy Ahdieh's writing so much. Her descriptions of the setting (a fantasy inspired by feudal Japan) are detailed and stunning. She really captures the place where the story is set. She's one of those authors who makes every scene feel a little bit magical, even when nothing supernatural is happening. Smoke in the Sun is a less romantic book than Flame in the Mist, which is just fine by me. The relationship was left in a good place in the first book and I'm glad Ahdieh moved on to more important things instead of prolonging the angst. Here, Mariko finds herself in Heian Castle, playing the part of dutiful bride-to-be to the Emperor's younger brother, while the Emperor Roku himself becomes ever more violent and vindictive. The perspective of the novel frequently switches to secondary characters to offer more depth to them and more layers to the story. Indeed, the secondary characters were even more interesting to me than Mariko and Okami. From Kanako, the former Emperor's scheming consort, to Kenshin, Mariko's brother and dedicated samurai who never got over losing the girl he loved. Characters who at first appear to be villains turn out to be more complex, which I love. “We should create a world for women like us. It would be a thing to see.” I love how this book shows a world where, on the surface, powerful men battle it out to be on top, but behind the scenes there are also powerful women pulling the strings. Mariko's friendships with Yumi and Suke offer a delightful break from the action and violence, and show that there is great power in one woman helping another. A very engaging, fun, action-packed fantasy. Ahdieh's future in YA looks set to follow writers like Bardugo and Maas: a balance of magic, drama, action and romance that is a guaranteed bestseller. Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Youtube

  2. 5 out of 5

    Elena May

    “Respect is not a thing granted. It is a thing earned.” A fitting conclusion to the duology. Mariko is no longer in the woods, dressed as a boy and playing outlaw. It’s time for her to learn diplomacy and how to survive at court. The world becomes bigger, and we get glimpses into more characters and the magic system—something I sorely missed in the first book. My biggest problem with the first book was that the characters’ morality was too simplistic, either pure good or cartoonishly e “Respect is not a thing granted. It is a thing earned.” A fitting conclusion to the duology. Mariko is no longer in the woods, dressed as a boy and playing outlaw. It’s time for her to learn diplomacy and how to survive at court. The world becomes bigger, and we get glimpses into more characters and the magic system—something I sorely missed in the first book. My biggest problem with the first book was that the characters’ morality was too simplistic, either pure good or cartoonishly evil. This is somewhat remediated in this book, but only with one single character, and not in the most realistic way. The character in question goes from pure black to pure white in the span of a few days, instead of just being grey and making good and bad choices at the same time. I mentioned in my review of Flame in the Mist that it reads a bit like a children’s book, and I had the same feeling here. At one point I was thinking about how I like the relationship between Yumi and Mariko, with Yumi struggling between jealousy and grudging respect. It was nicely and subtly revealed both in the first book and here, and it made a lot of sense. And then, just as I was thinking this, the next several pages went on to spell it all out in detail, and all subtlety was lost. I felt the author should have trusted the readers more to find out some things on their own. And speaking of Yumi, while I like her, I wasn’t a fan of her complaining how her brother doesn’t let her join them in the woods. Even if she joins him, she’ll be just one more fighter. If she stays where she is, she can provide valuable intelligence and is much more useful. A mature person would have seen that and made the sacrifice, but the book presented it as if Yumi should aspire to go to the woods and join the guys. I have never before commented on a book’s editing because I believe a few typos here and there can happen to anyone. However, the editing here was horrible to the point of distraction. Typos were literally on every page, sometimes multiple times per pages. It was the worst when characters’ names were misspelled, which made me wonder if a different form of the name was used to signify something, but that was never the case. Mariko’s name was written as “Maniko” or “Manko” multiple times. At one point, Okami called her “Lady Manko” twice within a single page, and I started thinking I’ve missed something, and he’s calling her that on purpose and it has some meaning. But then I googled it, and wow, I really really don’t think Okami meant to call her that! I understand traditionally published books sometimes face strict deadlines and authors don’t have the freedom to go through multiple rounds of copyediting and proofreading, but this shouldn’t be tolerated. I’ll be very hesitant to check out anything by that publisher again. The book reads like a first draft. Also, Kanako’s motivations a bit of a mess. (view spoiler)[First, she wants Kenshin to kill the emperor because he has an obvious reason and it will be easy for her to pin the blame on him. But then, it turns out she had already picked a boy to use as a scapegoat. So does she plan to put the blame on Kenshin or not? And then, the plan to kill the emperor fails, and so she turns into a spider, and instead of killing Roku herself, she kills his mother and then produces an army of zombies that kill many and nearly destroy the empire she hopes her son will rule one day. (hide spoiler)] Pre-reading comments: I don't normally comment on book covers, but am I the only one who thinks the colors don't work together? I see they were going for a red heart, but yellow dragons would look much better against the purple background, in my opinion. Or maybe light pink dragons?

  3. 4 out of 5

    Warda

    “She would not turn back on what defined her…” It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t the best it could’ve been for me. I felt like it almost lulled into a false sense of security, because the beginning was that good. Firstly, this book had quite a few typos. Editors, what the hell?! Secondly, it started off great. I was so excited to be back in this world again as I loved Flame in the Mist. At the beginning of the story, we were re-introduced to the characters again (and others), their struggles, and their “She would not turn back on what defined her…” It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t the best it could’ve been for me. I felt like it almost lulled into a false sense of security, because the beginning was that good. Firstly, this book had quite a few typos. Editors, what the hell?! Secondly, it started off great. I was so excited to be back in this world again as I loved Flame in the Mist. At the beginning of the story, we were re-introduced to the characters again (and others), their struggles, and their inner turmoils was spoken about in great detail. Events that took place in the last book were now affecting the kingdom and its people and we were seeing how that was impacting certain individuals, which I really, really enjoyed reading, but the society as a whole wasn't looked at in as much detail. The development of each of those characters and Ahdieh really diving into the dynamics of each of them was awesome to read. Their voices were distinct, the writing gorgeously rich. It truly carries you away into the world and into the minds of the characters. This carried on up to the half-way point alongside the court intrigue and then that’s when things slowly started to fall apart. What I had a issue with was the plot. As well as the ending, but the politics of the world was slightly flimsy and not concrete. The tyrant that took over after his father acted like an annoying child not getting his way. It would’ve been nice to get his perspective and delve into his mindset and cruelty (it was there, despite the child comment) but we weren’t given any. His character arc would’ve been so intriguing. Or we should have had a better introduction in Book 1, as the sibling rivalry aspect played such an important role, as well as Kanako and her powers, which I loved but needed more off. The ending was annoyingly rushed. It’s frustrating, because there was so much build-up at the beginning, which was incredible and so well done. Then everything about the characters, their development, and the plot was crammed in and finalised. It felt unfulfilling. I really do like this duology enough. The emphasis on Mariko fighting for her beliefs, establishing her own identity was really honed in. Feminism 101. If only there was more substance to it all.

  4. 4 out of 5

    destini

    i– why doesn't this series have better reviews?! what am i missing? WHY IS IT OVER?! i'm in spain and the s is silent. honestly, i understand this series is not without faults. but somehow it's been able to make me look past its misgivings and fall in love with the story and characters. i've recently been disappointed with retellings, almost to the point where i steer clear of them entirely. they usually fall flat, in my opinion. but i decided to reread book 1 so i could finish the series and fou i– why doesn't this series have better reviews?! what am i missing? WHY IS IT OVER?! i'm in spain and the s is silent. honestly, i understand this series is not without faults. but somehow it's been able to make me look past its misgivings and fall in love with the story and characters. i've recently been disappointed with retellings, almost to the point where i steer clear of them entirely. they usually fall flat, in my opinion. but i decided to reread book 1 so i could finish the series and found myself remembering why i fell in love with this story in the first place. it has everything. family, friends, love, strong heroines, morally-grey characters. magic. i mean, recipe for success if you ask me. i just don't think this series gets the love it deserves and i'm!! tired!! of!! it!! sure, the ending might have been a little convenient. but i found there was so much more to love than to hate. i loved the world-building (which i felt came alive in this book more than in the first), i loved the storyline of powerful women carving out space for themselves in a world clearly lacking the influence of strong women, i loved the romance aspect–how it didn't overtake the story but gave just enough to have you satisfied. it's a YA fantasy I feel deserves much more credit than it's been given, i think.

  5. 4 out of 5

    jessica

    renee ahdieh is the queen of duologies. she has mastered the art of giving just enough of the story to satisfy the reader - not too much, and not too little; just the right amount. it felt like this was the yin to the ‘flame in the mist’ yang. where the first book was very fast paced and daring, this was more calm and calculating. so neat how one whole story can come together with two completely different halves. and whilst i am more than satisfied with the conclusion of this story, i cant help renee ahdieh is the queen of duologies. she has mastered the art of giving just enough of the story to satisfy the reader - not too much, and not too little; just the right amount. it felt like this was the yin to the ‘flame in the mist’ yang. where the first book was very fast paced and daring, this was more calm and calculating. so neat how one whole story can come together with two completely different halves. and whilst i am more than satisfied with the conclusion of this story, i cant help but feeling i preferred the first book. i think thats because the main characters spent a great majority of the book separated, and i feel like they grabbed my attention more when they were together. i also preferred the feel and style of the first book - this was a tad bit slow for my liking. but overall, another fantastic series by a wonderful author. cant wait to see what she comes up with next!! ↠ 4.5 stars

  6. 4 out of 5

    Reynita ★ The Night Reader ★

    THE REVIEW IS POSTED Flame in the Mist : ★★★★ my review Smoke in the Sun : ★★★½ 3,7 STARS "I would rather die for love than stand by and watch my love perish." My Opinion Time! To be honest, I still can't believe that I have finished reading this book because I remember reading the first book months ago and I loved it and after I finished reading the first book, I felt like there was something missing inside of me and the sequel would fill this missing piece in me. So I was really excit THE REVIEW IS POSTED Flame in the Mist : ★★★★ my review Smoke in the Sun : ★★★½ 3,7 STARS "I would rather die for love than stand by and watch my love perish." My Opinion Time! To be honest, I still can't believe that I have finished reading this book because I remember reading the first book months ago and I loved it and after I finished reading the first book, I felt like there was something missing inside of me and the sequel would fill this missing piece in me. So I was really excited and happy when this book arrived at my house and it was like a pure happiness for me. It was like the best day ever in the week ( it probably was ). But sadly, I didn't love it as much as I thought I would. Well, I still liked the book but I didn't love it. It wasn't amazing but it was a pretty good read for me. The Pacing and Plot Actually, before reading this book I had already expected that this book would be slow but I did not expect that it would be this slow. It was sooooo slow and I felt like there was too much information. It's not like I didn't need those information but my God, that was too much information for me and honestly I totally would skim reading this book, if it weren't for a certain character and the writing style but I didn't do it and I am so proud of myself for being able to be that patient when the book was soooooooo slow hahahaha. and now about the plot, well the plot was good enough but oh my God, there were some brutal scenes and it was brutal enough to make me uncomfortable, grimaced, averted my eyes and I kept wanting to skim reading when I read those brutal scenes but I didn't do that because I was afraid I would miss something important and I still remember those scenes in my mind and I want to forget them so badly. I just don't want to remember them. Those make me afraid and uncomfortable. The Romance In my opinion, this book filled with too much actions and not enough romance. There was indeed romance in this book but for me it's not enough. I wanted more romance scenes between two characters I adored and even though, the romance was not much, I still liked it and omg, the romantic bond between Mariko and the love interest was soooooo sweet and fiercely strong and THIS IS MY RELATIONSHIP GOALS. Their love for each other was so strong and they respected each other and they loved and treated each other equally and it honestly brought tears to my eyes because that was exactly what I wanted to read and this is also what I want in real life. While I was reading this book, I kept wishing and hoping that one day I hopefully would get a man like him. The romantic relationship between Mariko and the love interest was just so beautiful. "Ours is a love stronger than fear and deeper than the sea," he said softly. The Characters Mariko was determined, fierce and strong. She's honestly like an inspiration for me and I felt as if there was this connection between me and her. I was just so proud of Mariko and I always agreed with her and nodding along with all of her decisions. She's certainly one of my favorite characters that has inspired me. In this book we also get know more about Yumi and I liked Yumi but not as much as I liked Mariko. I don't know what else to say. I'm speechless. **SPOILER** (view spoiler)[ At first, I hated Raiden because of what he did to Okami and I just couldn't take it and I was so furious that he tortured Okami but then later on, he changed into someone that I surprisingly liked. Well, I am still angry of what he did to Okami. NO ONE SHOULD HURT MY CRUSH but I don't think he's that person that I used to hate so ... I'm just so conflicted, okay. and about the ending, I did like the ending. It was beautiful to read and I was happy that Mariko and Okami were together and they were getting married but I was not really satisfied because I still wanted to know more. I wanted to know more about Amaya and Kenshin and now that Amaya was free from the enchanted tree. I wanted to know more about what happened to the Black Clan. In my opinion, the ending was too fast or ended too fast. But, I still liked it. Now, I can sleep soundly at night, knowing Okami is fine because I swear I kept thinking about him and worried about him while I was reading this book. I just couldn't sleep tightly but now I can. (hide spoiler)] **END OF SPOILER** Overall, it was a good read for me and even though the book was slow, the book never bored me and the writing style was so pretty and I loved it so much. This was what it meant to be truly free. To be herself and no one else. To be loved as she was. •••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••• I stayed up all night to finish reading it and I honestly regret NOTHING! RTC •••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••• I literally screamed and swore when this book arrived at my house. Yes, I was that excited. I AM SO READY TO READ THIS BOOK.

  7. 5 out of 5

    April

    I do wish this series was a trilogy though.

  8. 4 out of 5

    destiny ♡⚔♡ [howling libraries]

    I love this cover, and I love the fact that it's got this gorgeous woman of color on it, and I love that Renee herself had a hand in ensuring that the color scheme still complimented the US hardback of the first book just so people wouldn't feel like their covers mismatched. <3 Precious. I love this cover, and I love the fact that it's got this gorgeous woman of color on it, and I love that Renee herself had a hand in ensuring that the color scheme still complimented the US hardback of the first book just so people wouldn't feel like their covers mismatched. <3 Precious.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Alyssa

    Update (October 2017): I'm pretty sure this book's publication date is now June 5, 2018 (not May 1st) and now I'm sad. 😭😭😭😭 Need need need need neeeeeeedddddd. Update (August 2017): THE TITLE IS SMOKE IN THE SUN OMG!!!!!!!!!!! I LOVE IT!!!!!!! Update (April 2017): I'VE READ THE FIRST BOOK AND YUP THAT ENDING THAT BOOK THAT ROMANCE THAT OKAMI I NEED EVERYTHING TO BE OKAYYYYYYYYYYYY. *grabby hands* August 2016: HAVEN'T EVEN READ THE FIRST BOOK BUT WANT THIS SO BADLY!!!!!!! Update (October 2017): I'm pretty sure this book's publication date is now June 5, 2018 (not May 1st) and now I'm sad. 😭😭😭😭 Need need need need neeeeeeedddddd. Update (August 2017): THE TITLE IS SMOKE IN THE SUN OMG!!!!!!!!!!! I LOVE IT!!!!!!! Update (April 2017): I'VE READ THE FIRST BOOK AND YUP THAT ENDING THAT BOOK THAT ROMANCE THAT OKAMI I NEED EVERYTHING TO BE OKAYYYYYYYYYYYY. *grabby hands* August 2016: HAVEN'T EVEN READ THE FIRST BOOK BUT WANT THIS SO BADLY!!!!!!!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. A wonderful conclusion to a duology that’s built upon its predecessor to create a magical world with colourful characters set against the backdrop of Feudal Japan. The story follows almost immediately after the conclusion of Flame in the Mist, with little time to catch your breath before the action begins. We find Mariko being transported to the Emperors palace to meet her future husband, the emperor’s eldest illegitimate son Raide I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. A wonderful conclusion to a duology that’s built upon its predecessor to create a magical world with colourful characters set against the backdrop of Feudal Japan. The story follows almost immediately after the conclusion of Flame in the Mist, with little time to catch your breath before the action begins. We find Mariko being transported to the Emperors palace to meet her future husband, the emperor’s eldest illegitimate son Raiden. Okami is captured, bound in chains beneath the same palace, and Kenshen is still dealing with the aftermath of his misdemeanours, with blood on his hands and his loyalty to his new emperor called into question. This felt immediately like a more mature and well developed novel compared to the previous instalment. The characters are well established, allowing the author to build up an emotional connection with the reader. Mariko is now not only a fierce and confident ‘spy’, but also a source of inspiration to those around her - especially Yumi, who can see a similar conflict she shares with her own brother in Mariko. There’s also a certain amount of jealously over her ability to be readily accepted for who she really is by the Black Clan, which gives Yumi the strength to follow her own path based on Mariko’s courage. It was good to see both characters flourish after a promising introduction in The Flame In The Mist. As usual, Marko’s interactions with Okami are suitably tense and filled with the right level of passion to propel their love story throughout the novel. I was surprised to find that my favourite character in the novel was actually Raiden. A deeply complex character, the older brother forced to serve a younger brother, brought up to hate him yet still resolutely loyal and protective of him. There are feelings of inadequacy, guilt, and a growing respect for his would-be bride Mariko that spills over into protection - not only for her, but the whole court. Kanako, his mother, is similar in her initial complexity. Again, she’s fiercely loyal to her son but I found that she was a little more reserved in her personality with little backstory to support her overall scheme and justify her actions. I wanted to know more about why Kanako made the various choices she makes throughout the novel, and also how. The world building is subtle, with talk of demons and a complex magical system that binds humans to various creatures via a sacrifice. However, I felt it needed developing a bit more, and was lacking in detail. This was perhaps my main issue with Kanako, who’s story and plan is so closely linked to these demons that with a ore in-depth explanation of her journey and process to becoming ‘one’ with her various demons, I might have understood her more. Other themes through the novel included the pattern of accepting responsibility for your actions and the idea that respect should be earned not given freely. Roku, as Emperor, has no one to keep him in check, allowing him to grow sadistic and mad with rage. Theres no empathy or compassion for his elders and respected council, leading to anarchy and destruction in his city. There’s no honour or goodness, unlike Okami, who has the respect and loyalty of his Black Clan family and the ability to lead where anyone will follow. They’re the light and darkness to the story and perfect opposites and the eventual showdown between the two demonstrates this well. I enjoyed this thoroughly, and thought it was a refreshing YA fantasy novel that covered some important themes in an entertaining way. A great addition to the genre.

  11. 5 out of 5

    ♛ may

    me trying to figure out where this book went wrong basic log of how it went: first 100 pages: i am confusion page 101 to 300: i sTaN page 301 to 380: wait what???!!?? page 381 till the end: how bloody effing convenient i have nothing else to say besides, where were there so many characters and why did i remember none? 2.5 stars me trying to figure out where this book went wrong basic log of how it went: first 100 pages: i am confusion page 101 to 300: i sTaN page 301 to 380: wait what???!!?? page 381 till the end: how bloody effing convenient i have nothing else to say besides, where were there so many characters and why did i remember none? 2.5 stars

  12. 5 out of 5

    Beth

    Thank you to NetGally for providing an arc in exchange for an honest review. 4 Stars! “She would not turn her back on what defined her, even if others perceived it as a weakness." I originally didn’t know what to think going into this, I thought Flame in the Mist was okay, and had no idea where the journey would take us, but this was SO good! I have to admit I had hit a bit of a reading slump part way through this for a number of reasons, I wasn’t as engaged as what I would of liked. There’s a lot Thank you to NetGally for providing an arc in exchange for an honest review. 4 Stars! “She would not turn her back on what defined her, even if others perceived it as a weakness." I originally didn’t know what to think going into this, I thought Flame in the Mist was okay, and had no idea where the journey would take us, but this was SO good! I have to admit I had hit a bit of a reading slump part way through this for a number of reasons, I wasn’t as engaged as what I would of liked. There’s a lot of build up going on and a lot of plotting on what is to come. So to say it was a slow burn is pretty accurate. However the last 50% of this book was SO well executed. I honestly didn’t want to put it down, I was so engrossed and hanging on edge for what was to come. This time around we saw a lot more characters from the empire; in relation to this Raiden, Roku and both mothers. My god, this family is a hot mess with so much going on, but I LOVED it. Did I see myself kind of low key loving Raiden? Not a chance. Did it happen? HOW COULD IT NOT! It just snuck up on me out of nowhere, and I honestly loved seeing his character develop into something so much more than what I originally thought. Roku is so evil, and you can see him become more and more engrossed in his power and what that did to him (in relation to other events that happened throughout). Kanako is another character I didn’t expect to enjoy half as much as what I did! I loved discovering all of her secrets and what she did and her parts played, I just. Ahhhhh it was so good! “It had taken her losing everything she knew to finally understand. Feeling pain and sorrow was not at all a sign of weakness. It was a sign of love." Mariko is such a well developed character, we see her grow from strength to strength and not only that but helps others see their worth. Although she has to face difficulties in this journey I liked seeing her thought process, especially in regards to the front she puts on, and how she focuses on other things that happened in her life to show a specific emotion. Then we have Okami, this time around I kind of missed him because for me personally he did nothing of interest. It was interesting to learn parts of his back story, but I missed him and The Black Clan this time around. What I liked? - The plotting and the deception, it was very very juicy - The complicated relationship between Kenshin and Mariko, they both had very different opinions on matters and how to act, but Kenshins small gestures without Marikoeven realising. - THE MURDERS - THE WEDDING, arrows flying everywhere! - Raidens redemption. I love that boy. Sorry, not sorry. - Revenge. It was great! - THE FINAL BLOW I was low key smiling with happiness What I didn’t like? - I don’t know if I missed it, but I’m not really sure what happened to a lot of characters at the end? - Parts of the book (for me) the pacing as just a little bit too slow to begin with - I missed The Black Clan “Respect is not a thing granted. It is a thing earned." Overall I really enjoyed the final book in this duo logy, I’m kind of sad it’s over because I got very very invested in Raiden to say the least. It was jam packed with action, and I kind of need more. Flame in the Mist - 3.5 Stars Smoke in the Sun - 4 Stars

  13. 4 out of 5

    Beatrice in Bookland

    "This was what it meant to be truly free. To be herself and no one else. To be loved as she was." 1) Flame in the mist ★★★★★ 4.5 Why didn't I five Smoke in the sun five full stars? Well, there's only one thing Renee Ahdieh needs to work on: how to write endings. Seriously, she has written two amazing duologues but both of them had incredibly rushed endings. Plus, the epilogues are always too short. For example, here we don't know what happened to Yumi or Kenshin, two very important characters. Yes, w "This was what it meant to be truly free. To be herself and no one else. To be loved as she was." 1) Flame in the mist ★★★★★ 4.5 Why didn't I five Smoke in the sun five full stars? Well, there's only one thing Renee Ahdieh needs to work on: how to write endings. Seriously, she has written two amazing duologues but both of them had incredibly rushed endings. Plus, the epilogues are always too short. For example, here we don't know what happened to Yumi or Kenshin, two very important characters. Yes, we get to see a glimpse of Mariko and Ōkami's future but it's not enough! But leaving the ending aside, this book was amazing. I love how Renee always creates characters with depth. They're very morally grey and each of them goes through growth, that's something not every author can do. She also balances action, character development and romance perfectly. Here the main goal is setting Ōkami free and to create a kingdom that values equality. There isn't much romance but you can feel the love between Ōkami and Mariko every time they're together, it's amazing (Never worship any man, Mariko. Let men worship you. hell to the y e s). As for character development, I've said it already, that's what Renee does best. I especially liked Raiden's characterisation. So, all in all, I can't recommend Renee Ahdied's books enough. She's one of my favorite authors and I can't wait to read what she writes next.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    It took a bit of time to remember the plot and characters from the first book. It's not usually this difficult especially when I remember loving the prior novel, but that's how it was here. In my notes, I found myself writing refreshers of who everyone was. However, once I got back into the plot and remembered all the details, I was excited to be thrown back into this beautifully written feudal Japanese setting. While book one saw Mariko go undercover in the disguise of a boy in an attempt to inf It took a bit of time to remember the plot and characters from the first book. It's not usually this difficult especially when I remember loving the prior novel, but that's how it was here. In my notes, I found myself writing refreshers of who everyone was. However, once I got back into the plot and remembered all the details, I was excited to be thrown back into this beautifully written feudal Japanese setting. While book one saw Mariko go undercover in the disguise of a boy in an attempt to infiltrate the Black Clan and find out why they tried to assassinate her, book two is a very different story. Mariko finally arrives at Heian Castle as Raiden's bride-to-be where she hopes to be useful to those she cares about most. This one picks up three days after the end of the first book. I always find it tricky discussing the plot of a sequel. You should know this is also the final book of the series, being that it is a duology. I am still confused by the magic system, so I was thrown out of the story a few times trying to make sense of it. Too many plot lines seemed to stem from this magic and nothing ever had much explanation. There were even more POVs in this one. Some seemed completely pointless and added nothing at all to the plot. Others weren't explored nearly enough giving only half-baked perspectives. I still loved Okami. The writing was strong. The world-building still felt exquisite. I just think it was more of an underwhelming conclusion to the first book.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Suzanne

    This one was more political than Flame in the Mist. However, like Flame in the Mist it had some really awesome moments throughout the book. I really enjoyed this duology more than I thought I would when Flame in the Mist first came out. In my opinion, the characters had a lot more depth and detail to them than in the first book. I did have a couple moments when it was a bit blah for me but there were way more awesome moments that make those blah moments worth it. Those last few chapters were com This one was more political than Flame in the Mist. However, like Flame in the Mist it had some really awesome moments throughout the book. I really enjoyed this duology more than I thought I would when Flame in the Mist first came out. In my opinion, the characters had a lot more depth and detail to them than in the first book. I did have a couple moments when it was a bit blah for me but there were way more awesome moments that make those blah moments worth it. Those last few chapters were complete WHOA & WOW moments. My quick and simple overall: a great conclusion to this duology with a great plot and awesome characters.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Manisha

    Actual review: 4.5 ““Everything in life began with an idea.” What an idea this book was. Smoke in the Sun is the second and final book in the Flame in the Mist duology, a tale inspired by the story of Mulan. I found this book to be an entertaining, somewhat complex, and a feminist portrayal of character study that surpassed my expectations. I can’t help but state the one compliment that is hard to bestow onto YA books in general: I did not see this coming.The story surprised me. The characters, th Actual review: 4.5 ““Everything in life began with an idea.” What an idea this book was. Smoke in the Sun is the second and final book in the Flame in the Mist duology, a tale inspired by the story of Mulan. I found this book to be an entertaining, somewhat complex, and a feminist portrayal of character study that surpassed my expectations. I can’t help but state the one compliment that is hard to bestow onto YA books in general: I did not see this coming.The story surprised me. The characters, their motivations and their actions surprised me. And I was entertained for all of it. WARNING: Graphic depictions of violence. ♥ Chrysanthemums and Diamonds I have a soft spot for morally grey characters. I especially love it when characters make decisions that completely change the storyline while still being in character. In this, I have to hand it to Ahdieh, none of her main or secondary characters were boring. None of them were one-dimensional puppets. If anything, I cared about them, and if I didn’t, I was wildly fascinated with their progress. From the main characters of Mariko, Ōkami, Kenshin, and most surprisingly, Raiden, to the supporting characters of Yumi, Kanako and Tsuneoki, Ahdieh has provided us with point of view chapters from all of the major players in this tale. This not only helped to delve into their characterisation more, giving them depth, but it also helped to move the story forward quickly (especially in the latter half of the book). I admired the journey of each of these characters. I could understand their motivations, I was surprised by some of their actions, and I appreciated how their interactions didn’t seem forced just to move the plot of the story onwards. Mariko was just as intelligent as I remembered, Ōkami was just as cynical and in need of help to reach his potential, Kenshin was just as noble, battling the concept of loyalty against what was right, Yumi, as stubborn as ever, and Tseneoki was the perfect friend who is just too good. I loved the fact there was no petty drama between the characters. The story flowed because of it. I find myself disappointed in many YA books when they bring in the traditional tropes of jealousy and unnecessary miscommunication. This book, I am glad to say, doesn’t suffer from such issues. The character journeys of Kenshin and Raiden, especially, was what I found myself invested in the most. Loyalty V. Love. Loyalty V. Truth. Loyalty V. Good. Besides the characters, I enjoyed the subtle weavings of magic and the absolutely gorgeous writing. It might take longer for Ahdieh to tell a story, but it is well worth it with such lovely prose. And more than anything, I especially enjoyed the political intrigue and its players. This was an improvement from the previous duology, where this was my main criticism. ♦ I said, I said, I said… I have a pet peeve when it comes to books. Unnecessary repetition. I hate it. I don’t mind lovely prose. I don’t mind a few phrases being repeated here and there to reiterate a point. However, I have dropped books if there is too much repetition. It shows an author trying to stretch the word count, and I saw it too many times at the beginning of this book. Summaries of the previous chapter kept popping up in the following chapter. This would be fine if it was one sentence. But that was rarely the case. The longest summary was three paragraphs long. I am just not a fan of this. Furthermore, battle sequences were lacking. I took this to mean that Ahdieh is not comfortable in writing battle sequences, but the ending seemed rushed because of this. Not enough time was spent in showing the final battle. It was over in two pages, explained in summary, while the romance had more focus. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Ahdieh writes romance well, and in this book, it wasn’t even the secondary storyline, which I really appreciated. However, it would have been great to see more of the action, especially since it was an important aspect of the latter part of the story. ♣ Series Conclusion This is not a Mulan retelling. It is a tale inspired by it, but it is not a retelling. It is a story that romanticizes East Asian history, especially, that of the code and loyalty of the Samurai. It is beautifully written, and it is a story that focuses on love, loyalty and friendship, but mostly, there is a strong lesson in girls and women being given the choice to be who they want to be. I enjoyed this duology, and I look forward to reading more of Ahdieh’s work. Fun fact: I found a few misspellings and grammatical errors close to the end. (Eg:- feet instead of feel, Roka instead of Roku etc.)

  17. 5 out of 5

    Angelica

    Real Rating: 2.75 Last year I read the first book in this duology, Flame in the Mist. I liked it. It was alright. I gave it three stars. I also had so many questions in terms of worldbuilding and the magic system. I also had some problems with the oh, so intelligent main character, Mariko. Still, I was interested enough to read this book and see how it all ended. Now, I must say, I'm only slightly more a fan of Mariko, and I still have so many questions about worldbuilding and the magic system. He Real Rating: 2.75 Last year I read the first book in this duology, Flame in the Mist. I liked it. It was alright. I gave it three stars. I also had so many questions in terms of worldbuilding and the magic system. I also had some problems with the oh, so intelligent main character, Mariko. Still, I was interested enough to read this book and see how it all ended. Now, I must say, I'm only slightly more a fan of Mariko, and I still have so many questions about worldbuilding and the magic system. Heck, I have more questions now than I did when I read Flame in the Mist, and that is saying something! This book begins a few days after the first one ends. Okami has been taken prisoner to the royal city, the Black Clan has been disbanded, and Mariko is on her way to marrying Prince Raiden. And honestly, I didn't really care about any of it. We don't get many scenes from the Black Clan in this book. Mostly, it felt like they were just sort of "there", you know? Like they served no true purpose. We got like three Okami parts (don't quote me on that number) and he's supposedly one of the main characters! I wanted to know more about him and his magic, which by the way is only slightly explained. Then there was Mariko. I liked her more in this one, but that's not saying much. At least here we actually saw her intelligence at play rather than her just talking about it over and over. Mostly, this book seemed intent on giving every single minor character from book one their own story. Sometimes it was annoying, like with Yumi and Kenshin whose stories just didn't interest me and seemed to have no true connection to the main plot (which was what??) and mostly managed to confuse me. Other times this new focus was good, like with Raiden and his mother Kanako, both of which were really interesting characters. But, due to the constraint of a single novel and a lot of stories to tell, their stories felt incomplete and I couldn't care too much about them. The world building here did get explore a bit more but not fully. In book one we got a peek into the magic that lay just beneath the surface of this world. In this book, we got to open the door wide and take a good hard look. Then the book ended and the door was shut in our faces before we could explore and figure any of it out. The bits and pieces that we saw of the world were magical and beautifully written. But it explained nothing! How does the magic work? Where does it come from? Does everyone just casually make pacts with demons of the forest? What are the consequences everyone kept vaguely mentioning? Why is everyone so casual about this? And that ending! It was so anticlimactic! It was deus-ex-machina at its finest! UGH! So many emotion! So many questions! In the end, did I like this book? Not really. I enjoyed it, I was entertained, but I also got kinda bored in certain parts. I think the main issue with this book is that it was written as a duology. Had this been a longer series, had it at least been a trilogy, this could have been amazing. There was too much crammed in this installment. Too much that didn't get explained and flushed out.  I would have wanted more. Still, I look forward to whatever Renée Ahdieh writes next. Also, on an ending note, it's actually stated that Mariko and Okami only knew each other for like two months. And more than half the time they spent it supposedly hating each other. Just think about that.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Dannii Elle

    Actual rating 3.75/5 stars. Smoke in the Sun is the second book in the Flame in the Mist duology. This final instalment continues to follow Mariko, fiercely independent in a world that expects its females to be anything but. This fantasy, inspired by Feudal Japan, focuses on both the shifting allegiances and political intrigue of the Emperor's court, as well as the wider tribulations, troubling the kingdom. Before beginning this book I only had the vaguest recollection of the first one. I could re Actual rating 3.75/5 stars. Smoke in the Sun is the second book in the Flame in the Mist duology. This final instalment continues to follow Mariko, fiercely independent in a world that expects its females to be anything but. This fantasy, inspired by Feudal Japan, focuses on both the shifting allegiances and political intrigue of the Emperor's court, as well as the wider tribulations, troubling the kingdom. Before beginning this book I only had the vaguest recollection of the first one. I could recall all the major plot points but not individual names or exactly how the previous instalment closed. This book began by both gently immersing the reader back into this world and bringing back previous details to their attention, without any jarring info-dumps or an uninspired and obvious recap. I found that within the space of a few chapters I was dually up to speed with the story-line and once again enraptured by this world. Ahdieh again proves herself as a masterfully immersive story-teller. Her writing is sublime and she exquisitely captures a world within her words. This was my main source of adoration and the most memorable aspects about all four of her books, that I have now read. Whilst still engaged with the story-line and in utter adoration with the writing, I found the latter half of this book slowed in pace a little. The intrigue was still intact, as was my interest with proceedings, but I found myself yearning for a resolution rather than an extension of the anguish this centred around. Indeed, when under 100 pages of this book remained and so much was still left to be resolved, I was worried a hastily-erected solution would be all the closure that was granted. All my fears were allayed, however, and this book provided a sound ending for this immersive and thrilling duology. I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to the author, Renne Ahdieh, and the publisher, Hodder & Stoughton, for this opportunity.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Ashley

    Star Rating: —> 5 Stars Um. If the first book had me SHOOK, this rendered me GD SHOOKETH . RTC buddy read with Darce my OTP BUDDY READING BESTIE! 🤗

  20. 4 out of 5

    Cora Tea Party Princess

    5 Words: Family, loyalty, attraction, betrayal, power. THIS is how you write a second book. It was wonderful and I enjoyed it so much more than the first. As I started this book I was like "help, what happened in the first one?" and I searched for recaps. Because you have to have read the first book to read this one, it picks back up only days after the first and there is very little reflection on what happened previously. I really feel that Mariko grew and changed so much in this book, even more t 5 Words: Family, loyalty, attraction, betrayal, power. THIS is how you write a second book. It was wonderful and I enjoyed it so much more than the first. As I started this book I was like "help, what happened in the first one?" and I searched for recaps. Because you have to have read the first book to read this one, it picks back up only days after the first and there is very little reflection on what happened previously. I really feel that Mariko grew and changed so much in this book, even more than in the first. Where I wasn't much of a fan in the first book, I absolutely loved her in Smoke in the Sun. She had this new, ruthless edge to her Also I am pretending that the epilogue does not exist as that means my ship sank. Full review to come.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Noha Badawi

    I didn’t expect the sequel to be this good but it was and i really, really enjoyed it. full review I didn’t expect the sequel to be this good but it was and i really, really enjoyed it. full review

  22. 4 out of 5

    Lu

    Please tell me this is just the UK cover and they will come out with another to match US/hardback-Flame in the Mist please Please tell me this is not a cover change Please it's 2o18 dammit, I thought we were freaking done with cover changing Please? Please tell me this is just the UK cover and they will come out with another to match US/hardback-Flame in the Mist please Please tell me this is not a cover change Please it's 2o18 dammit, I thought we were freaking done with cover changing Please?

  23. 4 out of 5

    Sophie Elaina

    This was a glorious part two to a wonderful duology! The characters were by far my favourite aspect of this book. The protagonist Mariko is clever and strong willed, making for a powerful character to read about. So often 'strong women' in literature are portrayed quite literally with actual strong physical skill and strength and that's great but you can be strong in other ways than physically! I can't relate as much to that as to a character that is strong mentally or intellectually or even emoti This was a glorious part two to a wonderful duology! The characters were by far my favourite aspect of this book. The protagonist Mariko is clever and strong willed, making for a powerful character to read about. So often 'strong women' in literature are portrayed quite literally with actual strong physical skill and strength and that's great but you can be strong in other ways than physically! I can't relate as much to that as to a character that is strong mentally or intellectually or even emotionally. There are so many different types of strength and everyone relates to different characteristics for different reasons. I loved that the actions the characters take, take centre stage in this novel and their progress and development is really what this book is all about. I haven't found a book where I related to the character so much in a long time. The different perspectives intertwine much more in this second novel and the result of the author's talent where it comes to plotting is clear.  “Respect is not a thing granted. It is a thing earned.” I'm always searching for empowering fantasy reads that have real feminist undertones or characters, because the contemporary genre seems so much further ahead in this regard and I need more from fantasy. I feel as though fantasy stories more often than not flash back to not only old world culture but also old-fashioned views. And a lot of the time sadly enough it is accurate regarding history but fantasy doesn't always have to be historically accurate. It's not non-fiction and it's not historical fiction. We live in a much more aware time and I think it's important that we keep pushing to make the awareness even better. So why not write a story that has the culture and style of a past time but a more modern view on equality? “Our deepest truths are usually the hardest to conceal.” I found a connection to Mariko because she uses her intellectual skill and the way she thinks as her weapon of choice. Even though I love badass assassins and skilled warrior women and I will always love reading about them, I will continue to want to see a larger variety of strengths portrayed in the books that I'm reading and I know I'm not the only reader who feels like this. But Smoke In The Sun actually did so much in such an amazing way. Renée Ahdieh created a very special tale here, and an incredible protagonist that I know I will often think about. It's one of the most well written young adult novels that I've ever read. “You do not know what it means to be happy. Happiness is not a thing to be found here in the imperial court. We take moments of pleasure. Collect them and keep them tight in our chests. And we hope they are enough to fill whatever holes our truths leave behind.”  This book is a tale of trust, belief, and fear. It is strikingly beautiful. The first book 'Flame In The Mist' was a great read but this one just takes the story up about ten levels. The plot in 'Smoke In The Sun' continues shortly after the ending of the previous novel. I know some people don't like long time gaps between novels so I just thought I'd mention that as a plus side. I fell instantly back into the story, even though it'd been a while since I'd read 'Flame In The Mist' and I didn't remember absolutely everything that happened I was still captured by what was going on and was quickly brought up to speed.  I didn't love the ending quite as much as the rest of the novel, it felt a little rushed. Although I do understand why the author chose to do it that way, I mostly didn't like it because I didn't want it to end. But the story had to come to an end even though I didn't want it to.  “Ours is a love stronger than fear and deeper than the sea”  The book is full of feminist undertones and the author didn't just mention something without giving context like I've seen before so many times in other books. She actually took the time to create a story with it and I feel like so many people could learn from these characters (mainly Mariko, Yumi and Okami). She shows the bad and takes the protagonist on a journey that confronts it. In addition the love interest isn't there to support Mariko, she doesn't need him. He's their to stand beside her. And there's a massive difference. I just flipping love this story, and EVERYONE needs to read it! Visit my blog for more reviews and bookish content: https://www.sophieelaina.com/

  24. 4 out of 5

    Alaina

    So glad Andy told me about this audio! YOU ARE ACA-AWESOME! Smoke in the Sun was a pretty good sequel to the Flame in the Mist. It continues right where the first book left off. Which if you haven't read that book, Mariko is on her way to the Emperor's Palace. Once there she will meet her future husband and find out some interesting information along the way. Mariko is just an easy to like kind of character. I just felt so bad for her though because once she realized that Okami was captured, she g So glad Andy told me about this audio! YOU ARE ACA-AWESOME! Smoke in the Sun was a pretty good sequel to the Flame in the Mist. It continues right where the first book left off. Which if you haven't read that book, Mariko is on her way to the Emperor's Palace. Once there she will meet her future husband and find out some interesting information along the way. Mariko is just an easy to like kind of character. I just felt so bad for her though because once she realized that Okami was captured, she gave herself up. She agrees to marrying Raiden because of it. However, since then she became such a bad ass spy and I absolutely loved her little interactions with Okami. Even though I was slightly dying inside because of how god damn precious these two were. Raiden, the eldest illegitimate son, is her soon-to-be husband. I really liked reading about him and see his relationship with his brother. Even though they were taught to hate each other, he was loyal no matter what to his family. I honestly really liked him with Mariko because of how he learned to trust her (in ways) and sort of became protective of her. In the end, I am happy because I got my damn happy ending. I mean.. they got their happy ending. They meaning Okami and Mario.. but don't worry Raiden gets one too guys! I can't tell you how freaking happy I was towards the end of this book. YET, I have some questions left unanswered (as I'm sure most of you did too). I was hoping I would get some extra chapters or maybe a novella after this book but I'll take what I can get.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Maggie ☘

    Do you know this one deep quote which tries so hard to be dramatically meaningful but fails miserably. Ends up being pretentious and so full of itself it can't even see the light of day anymore? (Hello to John Green's books btw!) This duology start to finish is just like that one dreadful quote. Meh. I probably shouldn't have expected anything better than book one which I also gave 2 stars to. This one was actually weaker than the first book in terms of the plot. I way disinterested in both the c Do you know this one deep quote which tries so hard to be dramatically meaningful but fails miserably. Ends up being pretentious and so full of itself it can't even see the light of day anymore? (Hello to John Green's books btw!) This duology start to finish is just like that one dreadful quote. Meh. I probably shouldn't have expected anything better than book one which I also gave 2 stars to. This one was actually weaker than the first book in terms of the plot. I way disinterested in both the characters - too many POVs, too much tell and little show about the character's personalities etc - the plot and the ridiculous villain. I'm finding out that the author's overly purple (pretentious) writing is not for me. It somehow suited me in Wrath, but I found myself thinking it was way over the top in both of these books. In the end skimmed some parts of this book when I realized I'm just not going to pay attention to all these unecessary POVs. 2 stars basically for setting and Yumi who had the potential to be really interesting (and way better MC than the one we got). The Wrath duology is much better. Some quotes I did actually like: “Your passivity gives him leave to act like a monster. If you allow a monster to destroy everything in its path, then you are no better than the monster, Raiden.” “And making all these young women present realize a harsh truth: men are allowed to wander in their desires. Women who wander risk their very lives.” “But it had all been childish folly, this idea of revenge. The musings of an angry boy, bereft of purpose. After all, what kind of purpose did retribution provide? It was the kind that destroyed its bearer in a ceaseless cycle of hatred.”

  26. 4 out of 5

    Ardent Reader

    The world building was great where I felt that I was consumed by the authors writing skills. The book is really good except the fact that I got confused with the names….

  27. 4 out of 5

    Megan

    1.5 -- And the lies this city wore--lies cloaked in silk and steel--shimmered beneath the surface, ready to take shape. This quote perfectly encapsulates one of the larger flaws of Smoke in the Sun, and perhaps with most of Ahdieh's books, and that flaw is that Ahdieh tries too hard for profundity at the expense of clarity. Metaphors are smashed together with little to no thematic or contextual purpose. Sometimes the language doesn't even make sense, as in the example above (the city is wearin 1.5 -- And the lies this city wore--lies cloaked in silk and steel--shimmered beneath the surface, ready to take shape. This quote perfectly encapsulates one of the larger flaws of Smoke in the Sun, and perhaps with most of Ahdieh's books, and that flaw is that Ahdieh tries too hard for profundity at the expense of clarity. Metaphors are smashed together with little to no thematic or contextual purpose. Sometimes the language doesn't even make sense, as in the example above (the city is wearing the lies, but they're also under . . . the surface? Except that's literally the opposite of "wearing" something? And the lies that are "shimmering" in "silk and steel" are also . . . malleable like clay? What??? This quote is a goddamn mess.) Another huge issue was the overabundance of symbolic animals meant to represent our main characters - most especially in the case of Okami, who was represented by a wolf, a (sea) dragon, and a phoenix throughout this novel. Oh, and also the "fire" to Mariko's "water," too. I mean, just stick with a single symbol, man. The Honsho Wolf persona was striking, it didn't need this convoluted nonsense in some clumsy bid to represent Okami reclaiming his true identity as Takeda Ranmaru. But the book's most pressing problem is that it tries to be more than what it is. I wasn't a fan of Flame in the Mist for a lot of reasons, but I still had a decent time reading it. It was quick, pulpy, and had some easy thrills to keep me looking forward to the next scenes. The sequel loses this entirely. And while the pacing and the character development does (in a small degree) improve, this lack of excitement pushes what would have been an average novel into "truly bad" territory. Interactions between well-liked characters from the first book were nearly nonexistent in order to make room for new POVs (and WAY too many Kenshin sections, considering his story ended unresolved?) The attempts at portraying political intrigue were laughable. Most frustrating was the way this book - and I suppose the entire duology, really - tries so hard to masquerade as feminist. It's like Ahdieh wanted to protect herself from criticism for writing what she clearly likes to write (historical romance about arranged marriages / nobility falling in love) by dressing it up in "feminist" clothes and parading it down the street. Every single chapter featuring a woman was sure to bring up the fact that they're either thwarting tradition or suffering because of their roles. There was no nuance whatsoever. Yet, at the same time, our lead women are doing . . . literally everything for men? Kanako, Genmei, Yumi, Mariko - all of them were driven by their relationships to the men in their lives (be they brother, or lover, or husband, or son). And Mariko can pretend that she "chooses" to marry Raiden in order to enact some sort of political change based on her own burgeoning democratic beliefs, but nobody is fooled. Ahdieh wanted the drama of the uncertain wedding night; she wanted the tension between Okami and Mariko that was born of Mariko being "married" to another man. There's nothing wrong with that, but for the love of God, just own it. Also the magic system still sucked. So. There's that.

  28. 4 out of 5

    cindy

    “Everything in life began with an idea.” I really wanted to love this book, but I kept putting it aside for indefinite periods of time. Evidently, it took me over three months to complete – though I should attribute half the blame to my reading slump. However, Smoke in the Sun was far from dreadful; in fact, I thought it was a beautiful complement to the first instalment. It just didn’t have that zing to draw me back in each time. The story was pleasant enough while I was reading it, “Everything in life began with an idea.” I really wanted to love this book, but I kept putting it aside for indefinite periods of time. Evidently, it took me over three months to complete – though I should attribute half the blame to my reading slump. However, Smoke in the Sun was far from dreadful; in fact, I thought it was a beautiful complement to the first instalment. It just didn’t have that zing to draw me back in each time. The story was pleasant enough while I was reading it, but I wasn’t compelled to think about it once I was away. For starters, the pacing was a bit inconsistent. Each individual chapter was well-written, and the overarching premise was present, but the bulk of the novel was quite slow. While I didn’t mind the meditative quality, I needed more action to drive the plot. It was less immediately gripping than Flame in the Mist, which I flew through within a matter of days. It wasn’t because the story adopted a more political angle; I love Asian historical dramas, so I’m certainly not averse to internal politics – but I felt like this book only skimmed the surface of court intrigue. In spite of the alleged scheming, it seemed as though very little happened over a large expanse of time. The plot was a little loose – there were lots of subtle developments, threads of different plans, but nothing really concrete. It needed clearer direction, or something to tie it all together. “If no one cares about what is right or wrong in the seat of our empire – the very seat of our justice – then all we hold dear is lost.” With that being said, I did thoroughly enjoy the passing glimpses of court life. There was an underlying theme of falsehood in stifling one’s identity. I’ve always been intrigued by the premise of a woman being deceptively meek, and it was satisfying to see Mariko’s small, symbolic acts of defiance. In general, I loved the feminist undertone and the notion of fighting with wit, not weapons. The circumstances allowed Mariko to grow as a character; she was able to apply her intelligence with greater transparency, and her fortitude became more apparent. I still found it a little difficult to connect with her personally, but I came to admire her strong will and compassion. Yumi played a smaller role than I was expecting, though their combined resolve felt empowering in a political landscape dominated by men. Renée Ahdieh has a distinct writing style that is extremely poetic, and her descriptions are gorgeous. I’m in no position to judge the cultural authenticity, but it seemed very detailed and thoughtful. However, some of the sentences bordered on purple prose, and the abundance of isolated one-liners just became too dramatic. There was also a bit of info dumping through dialogue, and not enough showing. Overall, I just wanted more authentic deep emotion – but for the most part, the rawness was eclipsed by pretty words. “Those who served them had been born beneath unlucky stars and could never share the same sky, no matter how hard they might wish for it.” A recurring theme with royalty is corruption, and the innate selfishness that is born from a seat of privilege. The Emperor, Roku, was an obvious embodiment of this – he was callous, sadistic, and unfit to rule. But even if his depravity made him intriguing, he lacked the emotional complexity to really captivate me as a villain. However, most of the other characters did prove to be quite multidimensional. Everyone had their own demons to contend with, which blurred the moral confines of their actions. Raiden grew to be likeable once he finally navigated his conflicted loyalties, and I liked witnessing the subtle progression towards his epiphany. Yet I do believe that he should’ve experienced more emotional strain when it came to (view spoiler)[killing his brother (hide spoiler)] , especially since their relationship had so much potential to explore. Kenshin was also interesting, because his grief brought out a darker side to him, but you could feel that he was inherently righteous. His dynamic with Yumi had this tension (?) to it that made me oddly invested whenever they were together in a scene. And I loved his relationship with Mariko; the sibling bond was so palpable beneath all the layers of bitterness and mistrust. Basically, there were a lot of secondary characters. Some were more fleshed out than others, but it was hard to keep up with the multiple narrative arcs. Smoke in the Sun frequently switches between perspectives, and while I appreciated the multifarious angles that provided, it also split my investment across chapters, creating a kind of disconnect from the storyline. I didn’t feel as close to the main protagonists, either – if anything, their POVs became overshadowed by the more engaging ones happening beyond the palace. “Real love was more than a moment. It was everything that happened after. Chaos in one instant, simplicity in the next. Everything and nothing in the space of a simple breath. It was clarity, sharp and numbing, like a winter’s morning.” The romance took a backseat in this book, which was understandable, given the priority of events. Mariko and Ōkami spent a majority of the time apart, but I needed to be more convinced by the intensity of their love for the stakes to feel higher. Still, there were some scenes, beautiful in their simplicity, that really warmed my heart. And I was thankful that Ōkami retained his sense of humour, alleviating some of the darker moments. His character development came into effect towards the end, where he embraced his potential as a leader. Though less prominent here, the friendships within the Black Clan had been established in book one, so the (view spoiler)[deaths of Ren and Yoshi’s son (hide spoiler)] were still sad. 😔 The reality of death is that it happens without fanfare – here one moment, gone in the next – and that notion, coupled with Ōkami’s burst of adrenaline, made the scene very emotional. “In life, everything worthwhile involved sacrifice.” So all the action that I'd wanted got congested in the climax… which was too rushed. Everything happened so fast, I barely had time to process the events before they were over. There was so much build-up throughout the novel, but the resolution was almost too convenient?? We didn’t get to see much detail during the actual battle, and a lot of the protagonists weren't technically even involved. Frankly, the entire ordeal was catalysed by Kanako’s own objectives – I wonder how they would’ve succeeded in (view spoiler)[overthrowing Roku (hide spoiler)] without her intervention. Kanako was one of the most interesting characters, in my opinion. Honour and sacrifice became relative in her scheme, though she wasn’t exactly malicious either, and I found her oddly endearing. In general, I did enjoy the change in pace, but I would’ve liked more closure, especially with the other characters. Some loose ends weren’t addressed, and a few seemingly important things never eventuated into anything else. However, I am really happy with the ending. There was a lovely feeling of renewal, and (view spoiler)[Raiden’s reign (hide spoiler)] pointed towards a future of change and possibility. Even though it didn’t have the strongest plot, Smoke in the Sun was still a fulfilling conclusion to the duology, and I can be content with that. “Forgiveness is not a thing granted. It is a thing earned.”

  29. 5 out of 5

    *❆ Kαɾҽɳ ❆*

    12/07/18 Full Review Okay, I've had a few days to think about this book. I'll say i liked it, but didn't completely love it either I believe this a solid 3.5 rating, I do believe it was well executed, in terms of the plot and action, but it still had a few faults I will have some spoilers from the first book and in this book. Spoiler alert for you, last chance Okay, as we saw in the final moments of the previous novel, the emperor is poisoned by his own wife, since she wanted her son, Roku to si 12/07/18 Full Review Okay, I've had a few days to think about this book. I'll say i liked it, but didn't completely love it either I believe this a solid 3.5 rating, I do believe it was well executed, in terms of the plot and action, but it still had a few faults I will have some spoilers from the first book and in this book. Spoiler alert for you, last chance Okay, as we saw in the final moments of the previous novel, the emperor is poisoned by his own wife, since she wanted her son, Roku to sit on the throne. Now he is Emperor Roku, and his right hand man is his older brother Raiden, son of the previous Emperor's favourite consort. Raider snd Mariko's brother Kenshin were able to find Mariko in the forest with the black clan, and in exchange for her life and safety, Okami, who we find out is the lost son of the traitor samurai, had swapped identity with his best friend, Asano. Now in the chains of the emperor, Mariko gave herself up to help find a way to free Okami, her lover, from her betrothed's punishment But will Mariko lost everything she loves for this one boy, what will her decisions take away from her ? While I love this story, I loved the back story, the story of betrayal, of secrets and love. I feel like the ending was leading up to such a promising end, but then it ending so quickly that I did feel utterly disappointed, I expected so much more, and there is so many questions left unanswered Like what will happen to Kenshin? Is he redeemed? What happened to the Black Clan? What about Raiden? Mariko's parents? I feel like if it had continue on for just a few more chapters, I feel like the story may have felt more complete to me. Nevertheless, I loved the story and would definitely recommend it for everyone to read! 08/07/18 Okay, one of my most highly anticipated releases I've wanted to read this year is finished! But I don't know how I feel about it? There's a lot that I loved, but I still have some questions and doubts Full review to come once I gather my thoughts together

  30. 5 out of 5

    -S♡

    ★4 Stars! Smoke In The Sun... “Ingenuity could be a weapon, in all its forms. Her mind could be a sword. Her voice could be an axe. Her fury could ignite a fire.” My favorite quotes from this book: 1. “It had taken her losing everything she knew to finally understand. Feeling pain and sorrow was not at all a sign of weakness. It was a sign of love.” 2. “As swift as the wind, as silent as the forest, as fierce as the fire, as unshakable as the mountain.” 3. “A thing of beauty A love stronger than fear a ★4 Stars! Smoke In The Sun... “Ingenuity could be a weapon, in all its forms. Her mind could be a sword. Her voice could be an axe. Her fury could ignite a fire.” My favorite quotes from this book: 1. “It had taken her losing everything she knew to finally understand. Feeling pain and sorrow was not at all a sign of weakness. It was a sign of love.” 2. “As swift as the wind, as silent as the forest, as fierce as the fire, as unshakable as the mountain.” 3. “A thing of beauty A love stronger than fear and Deeper than the sea” 4. “I want to tell you I love you, without chains around my feet. Without reservations. I want to hold you as I say it. Beneath an open sky.” 5. “We should create a world for women like us. It would be a thing to see.” 6. “Ours is a love stronger than fear and deeper than the sea,”

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