Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Review: Smoke in the Sun

Smoke in the Sun
Rating: 4/5
Buy or Borrow: Buy
Source: Copy courtesy of the publisher! 

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. 

I've been desperately anticipating this sequel ever since I absolutely devoured Flame in the Mist! I've been itching to get back to the world and the characters, and honestly this has a totally cracking opening. There's tension from the start thanks to Yumi, and it gets even more so with the following short POV before we rejoin Mariko. 

Mariko has changed so much since the first book, and I've been excited to see her enact her plan. She's got to be incredibly careful as she plays the games of the court and politics, and the ways she exerts her power are very subtle, as is the same for some of the other female characters. They have a quiet strength. Mariko is so intelligent and she's not afraid to do what she has to do to save and protect the people she cares about. I just completely love her character, and it was fascinating to see her in this new setting, playing by these new rules. We've seen bandit Mariko, now we see Lady Mariko. 

The multi-POV kept the story moving forward and kept us up to date with what was going on with various factions. It provided action in one POV before we switched to a POV that was all about the political manoeuvring. So we always have some tension, it's just different types. What really made the different POV's work was that each one brought new depth to the characters and new layers to the story. Kanako for example...I immediately labelled her villain in the first book, but when reading her POV it was hard to see her as such. It just brought more to her character, Kenshin too. 

Kenshin...I'm not sure how I feel about him. He's not in a good place and his relationship with Mariko has been so damaged that I don't think it'll ever be fixed which has made me quite sad. I do think Mariko might have been a bit over the top about the whole thing, he was having his mind messed with to be fair. But I do get her point overall. Kenshin crossed a line. At least it seems he may have got a happy ending. 

Roku....oh Roku. How he reminded me of Geoffrey from GoT. I wish his end had been a bit bloodier and more fitting for what he did but I can't really complain I guess. He was a suitable antagonist to bring everyone together. As for his brother Raiden...I wasn't really sure what to make of him at first, I had a certain idea of what he was going to be like but he's actually quite straightforward. He's loyal and he protects Mariko. He was actually a pleasant surprise, he tried his best to help the people and he knew Roku was wrong. 

The one thing I was sad about was the lack of Yumi in this book, but when we did I had to cheer a little because she finally got to go after what she wanted. She's just such a badass female character, and I was hoping for more of her. 

Smoke in the Sun has a steady pace as things pick up from the previous book, Okami obviously isn't in this one that much but we do get to find out a lot about his past and some questions are answered. We see a lot of court life and the backstabbing and silly games they play which I had no problem with because I'm in love with the setting for this book! The descriptions are so vivid I had a certain aesthetic and certain images in my head as I was reading. There's a lot of detail and presumably a lot of research has gone in to achieving this and it brings the setting and era to life. 

The romance takes a backseat for obvious reasons this book, and considering we had that in the first book I was so ready for the angsty separation, and the intrigue and drama of the court. There's plenty of action, danger and tension mostly thanks to Roku. you read about him you get a bad feeling that just continues to grow, and you're on edge as Mariko is playing her own dangerous game. Meanwhile the Black Clan are gathering resources and working out a plan of action. 

Smoke in the Sun pulls you in to a world that seems magical even if there's nothing magical happening. The female characters are quietly strong, exercising their power behind the scenes, and there's a nice level of tension and danger throughout the book. The multi POV's keep the story moving forward and keep it fresh while bringing new layers to the plot and characters. Overall Smoke in the Sun wraps the story up beautifully, with a nice mix of action, drama, romance and magic...with a nice splash of danger. It's hard to put down such a gripping book!

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