Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers on June 5th 2018
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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.