Series: Flame in the Mist #2
Written by: Renee Ahdieh
Published: June 5, 2018 by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers (Penguin Group)
Synopsis: The highly anticipated sequel to Flame in the Mist—an addictive, sumptuous finale that will leave readers breathless from the bestselling author of The Wrath and the Dawn.
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.
With the wedding plans already underway, Mariko pretends to be consumed with her upcoming nuptials, all the while using her royal standing to peel back the layers of lies and deception surrounding the imperial court. But each secret she unfurls gives way to the next, ensnaring Mariko and Okami in a political scheme that threatens their honor, their love and very the safety of the empire.
I loved Flame in the Mist. It was one of my favorite books of last year so I was really excited to read the conclusion of this series and find out what was going to happen next. And while I enjoyed checking back in with the characters and getting some resolution, I didn't enjoy this book as much as I had hoped.
One of the things that I loved about this book was the world. Renee has created a really fantastic fantasy world inspired by Asian culture. It makes for a really lush and fascinating world that drew in the reader. I love that it pulls for Asian history and samurai culture. But it also has a great magical system. It's kind of a subtle magical system which is, what I am learning, may be a trademark of the author. She doesn't overwhelm the reader with a complex magical system, she just populates the world with magic that captures your interest and builds a basis for the plot and drama.
Unfortunately that plot wasn't as engaging as I was hoping. It wasn't a bad plot. There was a lot to it and it was interesting but it didn't feel as unique and fantastic as I had hoped. For one thing it reminded me a little bit too much of The Wrath and the Dawn. Our plucky heroine has to marry a terrible ruler and uses the opportunity to help the people her people. It's compelling, yes, but, it's also both stories. I know that Renee can do better. It just felt like a lot of this book wasn't really fully-formed. There were some really engaging parts of the book and just when I thought we were getting to a part where the plot would kick in, it would fade to black and move on to something else. I mean I liked the political intrigue and the plotting and scheming but even that felt fully fleshed out. I am a plot driven reader and I need a great plot for me to love a book and here it was just good, not great.
But my other criticism of the book is the pacing. I am used to Renee's style, it's overly flowery and lyrical and draws the reader in making you slow down and take in all the words. Which is all well and good but in order for that to not become taxing after awhile you need a book that is paced a little bit more steady. This book had a very slow pacing. It took me awhile to get into it and even when I was into it, I totally didn't mind putting it down for a book for a week to go to ALA and read a whole new book. I feel like that's not really a great thing in a book.
But for me, a lot of the book was redeemed by the characters. I really love these characters. Renee does a great job with developing characters who are dubious and walk the line between good and evil. The one character who is probably the most moral is the main character of Mariko who even manages to do a few pretty terrible things throughout the book. But I think the best characters here are the secondary ones. When get to spend a lot more time with Mariko's brother Kenshin in this book and he was really great. I liked being in his head and seeing his internal struggle. But the character with the best development was Raiden. I don't want to say too much but he's the kind of odious and grey character that I love.
On the whole, I think that Smoke in the Sun was a good read but it didn't blow me away like the first book in the series. It had a great world and amazing characters but the plot could have been less complicated and more creative.
I give Smoke in the Sun by Renee Ahdieh 8 out of 10 stars
Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Borrow. If you liked the first book in this series then I would say grab this one on your next library haul. It's good but I didn't like it as much as I thought I would.
Have you read Smoke in the Sun? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!