I was thrilled to pick up an ARC of this book while at NTTBF back in April. Funny enough, I picked up an ARC of Flame in the Mist just the year before, too. What a coincidence!
Anyway, I reread FitM before diving into its sequel, and I’m really glad I did. I’ve been rereading a lot of books this year due to sequels (*coughReaperattheGatescough*) or finales releasing (*coughWarStormcough*). I’ve quite enjoyed it because I’ve seriously forgotten so much! And since I never did read a finished copy of Flame in the Mist, I really felt like I was going into the book like it were brand new.
Title: Smoke in the Sun (Flame in the Mist #2)
Author: Renée Ahdieh
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Release date: June 5, 2018
Genre: Young adult, fantasy
Length: 408 pages (hardcover)
Synopsis: (via Goodreads) “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’ll admit that despite rereading the first book in this series, I was still a little confused in terms of the character. This mainly stemmed from the duplicity pertaining to two of the characters. But as the story progressed, everything smoothed out and I was able to follow quite well.
Smoke in the Sun picks up mere days after Flame in the Mist finished. Mariko is weeks away from marrying Prince Raiden, whose brother Roku now sits as emperor of Wa. Ōkami is imprisoned and his best friend, Tsuneoki, holds the Black Clan together. Now this is where things really get wild. I struggled to understand why Emperor Roku acted the way he did in this book. This was mostly due to the fact that we don’t see much of him in the first book, meaning we also don’t know much about him. He doesn’t get a lot of page time in this book, though, and most of how we view him is through the eyes of others: his older brother, Raiden, Mariko, and her brother, Kenshin, who has a lot of internal struggle himself.
One of my main problems with the first book was Mariko and Ōkami’s romance came out of nowhere. Despite that I really enjoyed their romance in this book. I found their relationship completely endearing because Ōkami is one of the only people who sees beyond Mariko’s gender. He knows her mind (and her heart, too) which really made me fall in love with both of them. Mariko’s passionate, willful, and independent. She was willing to sacrifice a lot. Most of the scenes between Mariko and Kenshin were frustrating and heartbreaking.
This book started out a bit slow for me, though. We’re gently wading these waters with Mariko as she tries to find a place for herself in court life. Multiple points throughout this book, I didn’t know who to believe or what their motives were. I mainly put my trust in Mariko, which is something everyone should have been doing from the very beginning! I definitely enjoyed the women throughout this book, even the ones we shouldn’t necessarily be rooting for because they’re all strong characters despite being unable to overtly display that or be anything other than a submissive woman.
I was quite satisfied with the ending, too. I liked how Ahdieh wrapped things up, and I feel like we can definitely move forward knowing things work out well for most of the characters. (Though, personally, I really wouldn’t mind one more book!)