Review: Smoke In The Sun

Goodreads: 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...

By the way, this review was originally posted on Goodreads earlier today but I wanted to post it here as well.*

I’m feeling a bit torn by this book. On the one hand it was incredibly fun, action-packed and I loved it. On the other hand, I have a lot of issues with it. The rating will remain 4 stars for now, but I might change it to 3.5 in the future. 

Smoke In the Mist begins soon after the incidents at the end of Flame In The Mist. The emperor is dead and is son rules in his place, Mariko has been “rescued” and is on her way to marry Prince Raiden, and Okami’s imprisoned beneath Heian Castle. 

Let’s take a look at the characters. Although I loved this book and it’s a great sequel, the way most of the characters were developped/behaved was one of my least favorite thing about it. 

Mariko and Okami have found a new strenght and a new side of themselves because of their love for each other. She feels strong about her convictions, and she’ll fight to protect and do what’s best for the people of the Empire of Wa. Okami’s realized he can’t remain who he was, selfish and hiding and running away from his emotions and problems. 
These two characters have the strongest, clearest development among this cast. If you look at their behavior and thoughts from the beginning of each book, it’s like they are different people and it doesn’t seem as though only a few weeks have passed. It’s unfortunate that most of the other characters didn’t receive this treatment. I only ever cared for Okami and Mariko but the way the author treats the other characters it makes even harder to do that. 

Kenshin, Mariko’s twin brother, indulges in an alcoholic, rage-filled downward spiral throughout half of the book and then his behavior changes and he changes cause and is almost completely removed from the book just like that. And Yumi’s perpective too. They disappeared from the story until the very last minute. It was so confusing and though it was easy to figure out what they were doing, I didn’t like it.

Another new perspective is Raiden’s. This character wasn’t properly fleshed out or developped either. I don’t think a few of the attitudes and changes in jhis behavior made that much sense. It could’ve been done better with a little more time/action, maybe, but something just felt off. In the end, he does behave in a way that makes sense for the story but it’s also a bit convenient to the desired outcome… I didn’t really like him because I just didn’t feel like I knew him at all. 

Don’t even get me started on Roku, the new emperor. That snowball of crazy went downhill incredibly fast and I don’t think anyone ever had the illusion that this wasn’t going to end badly for him. Although he was never the true antagonist of this novel, he was just such a typical, disappointing villain-type character and I feel like he could’ve been more meaningful to the story somehow…. I mean, there was just no point to him, the reader always knows he’s not the true villain and this makes me so mad! 

The magic elements in this book aren’t well-explained. It’s confusing and I wish the book had been a bit clearer in this aspect, but at the same time this didn’t really affect my overall enjoyment of the story so it’s not really such a huge issue for me. Okami and Tsuneoki received their powers after making a bargain with a night demon while Kanako (Raiden’s mother) was already born with magic but also made a few bargains with demons. These powers have a price, of course, though it’s unclear what the price for Okami and Tsuneoki was exactly. Kanako is aware of the price and she’s used her powers well to her advantage, but her powers seem almost limitless. It seems she can do just about anything until it finally runs out and she dies…. I think this character could’ve been really interesting to get to know better. She’s a bit of a weak antagonist in the sense I kept forgetting about her in the face of the other things going on and that she was easily defeated, but she did have the right motivation and her actions made perfect sense. She was even successful if you think about it. 

The conflict and the manner in which it was resolved was surprising. Frankly, I kind of loved it because it wasn’t the predictable conflcit it seemed but it also felt rushed…

One of the things I adored without question was the writing style. Amazing, intricate descriptions that allowed me to pictured everything clearly. Wise sayings and smartass, witty characters. And it was always beautiful.

Overall, Smoke In the Sun is a fun sequel, filled with action and intrigue, great main characters and amazing writing. Like I said earlier, allthough I loved reading it, I have a few issues with it. Nevertheless, I still recommend it.

**Just thinking that this book was written by the same author as The Wrath and The Dawn duology (and even Flame In The Mist) makes me confused anjd honestly a bit scared. Like, I’m thinking, was I so in love with the story and characters that I overlooked some major characterization issues? I don’t know! It makes me want to reread it with a more critical approach, but at the same time not, because I feel like it might ruin my love for these books…

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