*Thank you to Hachette Australia & NetGalley – I received an eGalley in return for an honest review*
*All opinions are my own & 100% honest*
The daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has long known her place—she may be an accomplished alchemist, whose cunning rivals that of her brother Kenshin, but because she is not a boy, her future has always been out of her hands. At just seventeen years old, Mariko is promised to Minamoto Raiden, the son of the emperor’s favorite consort—a political marriage that will elevate her family’s standing. But en route to the imperial city of Inako, Mariko narrowly escapes a bloody ambush by a dangerous gang of bandits known as the Black Clan, who she learns has been hired to kill her before she reaches the palace.
Dressed as a peasant boy, Mariko sets out to infiltrate the ranks of the Black Clan, determined to track down the person responsible for the target on her back. But she’s quickly captured and taken to the Black Clan’s secret hideout, where she meets their leader, the rebel ronin Takeda Ranmaru, and his second-in-command, his best friend Okami. Still believing her to be a boy, Ranmaru and Okami eventually warm to Mariko, impressed by her intellect and ingenuity. As Mariko gets closer to the Black Clan, she uncovers a dark history of secrets, of betrayal and murder, which will force her to question everything she’s ever known.
If there are any SPOILERY parts of the view they will be in purple font.
This cover is really pretty. I like how they incorporated the throwing stars in with the flowers around the peacock. I’m not sure what the peacock has to do with the actual story as I don’t remember a peacock ever being mentioned. But it is still a gorgeous cover.
This book is written in third person POV, which I don’t really enjoy that much. It’s not horrible but I just feel like I can’t connect with the characters as much as I can with first person POV. I enjoyed Renee Ahdieh’s writing but I think this book would have been soo much better in first person POV.
I kinda wish that I had known at the start that there was a glossary at the back of the book because there were a fair few terms mentioned that were in a different language and I had no idea what some of them meant. Like the odd one I could figure out what it meant, but most I had no idea and it was really frustrating. As I read the book in digital copy I didn’t even know it was there until the last page and I swiped across and there it was! Would have been handier at the start.
I enjoyed the aspects of this book that were similar to Mulan. I had never even heard of a Mulan retelling until this book, so I enjoyed that part of it. Obviously it didn’t stick exactly to plot of Mulan but some of the main points were still present. In Mulan, Mulan volunteers to go to war in her father’s place by dressing up as a man. Where as this story takes a different turn of events to lead to Mariko pretending to be a man, involve arranged marriages, a dark forest, unknown creatures and a plot to kill Mariko. This story is a little bit darker at times as well, but I have never read the original Mulan story, it could be even darker than this one, I’ve only seen the Disney movie and as it’s a children’s move its pretty tame most of the time. In this story Mariko’s brother also plays a major role, which I enjoyed sometimes and then others not so much. He was kind of a confusing character, but I will talk about that more in the Characters section below. I don’t believe Mulan had a brother in the Disney adaptation of the story, so this was an interesting addition.
Also I don’t understand the magic system in this book at all. There is one guy who has these magnificent powers, there is a woman who walks through a tree into some other place and that’s about the extent of the magic and it just confused me. Also at one point it implied that the guy with magnificent powers paid or something to be given the powers which is even more confusing.
Also, I don’t understand at all what the point was of showing Ranmaru’s feelings for Yumi. There was no explanation at all as to why she was ignoring him. How Ranmaru came to have feelings for Yumi, outside of her physical appearance. It just didn’t make sense that they put it in there for like one page and then said no more about it.
Another odd bit was the part where Okami found out that Mariko was actually a female. So, I kinda understand why Mariko kissed Okami, but I don’t get why he kissed her back. Only a few minutes ago he believed she was a male, I have nothing against 2 males having feelings for eachother, but it just didn’t make sense. I don’t know if the author was going for an insta love type deal when it comes to Okami’s feelings for Mariko or what it was.
And the last thing that isn’t specifically plot, it’s more the characters, but I’m putting it here anyway… Why does no one in this damn book tell the truth.. It’s kinda irritating. Mariko, Okami, Ranmaru, Mariko’s father, The Empress and the royal consort (can’t remember her name) are all lying and keeping secrets. It was getting a little monotonous.
So I have already said that I couldn’t really connect with or fully understand the characters because it was in third person POV. But I’ll still talk about some of the main characters.
I didn’t mind Mariko, I like that most of the time she made calculated decisions and never gave up on what she was trying to do. Okami was that character that showed no emotions and then does for the right person, while I don’t hate that type of character, they also aren’t my favourite. Like we get it, you’re tough.. You are allowed to show happiness atleast.. Ranmaru, I don’t really know, he may have been the clan leader but he was still kinda background in the story itself most of the time. Yoshi, first off I’m surprised that spelling of this name isn’t trademarked to Mario Bros or Nintendo or something. But anyway, I liked him, he was interesting and treated Mariko like a human being from the start even if sometimes she annoyed him. Kenshin, was just I don’t know. He was confusing most of the time. Like I know that he was just trying to save his sister, but some rationally thinking sometimes wouldn’t have hurt! And what has with killing that old guy and the two kids and waking up and not remembering doing it?! Sorry what and how?
Well this book was okay, but it wasn’t fabulous. There was a lot of confusing elements and seen as this is the first book in a duology, there is a lot of things that need to be explained in that second book. Is one book really going to be enough? I disliked the third person POV in this book. Third person POV can be done really well, for example, Harry Potter.. So it’s not that I hate Third Person POV as Harry Potter is my favourite series ever. But this book there was just no connection to characters and a majority of the time I just didn’t understand why they did anything.