Smoke in the Sun Review: First Book Took an L, but Second Book Bounced Back

June 25, 2019 by Aila J. | 4 stars, ARC Reviews, Books, Reviews

Smoke in the Sun Review: First Book Took an L, but Second Book Bounced BackSmoke in the Sun by Renee Ahdieh
Series: Flame in the Mist #2
Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons on June 5, 2018
Source: Publisher
Genres: Fantasy, Diversity, Romance, Young Adult
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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.

Set against the backdrop of feudal Japan, Smoke in the Sun is the breathless, romantic, not-to-be-missed fiery conclusion to a spell-binding adventure.

Note: This is the sequel to Flame in the Mist, which you can find my review here. It is also the conclusion of this duology, so this review will have slight spoilers! You can also find Jeann’s review for book 1 over here.

Want to check out graphics I made for this series, as well as playlists? Here’s my blog post for Flame in the Mist, and here is the one for Smoke in the Sun!

I think my favorite part about recent duologies is that the second book has a chance to step up the game from the first book, creating a climactic conclusion that readers will relish. Although I had some minor issues with Smoke in the Sun, the book was ultimately a triumph for me. I really enjoyed Mariko’s tenacity and vivacity, as well as the high-stakes plot that kept on churning. Fans of the first book will not be disappointed with this one! Ahdieh’s The Wrath and the Dawn duology will forever remain in my heart as number one, but this series certainly shows how consistent she is without fantabulous writing and heart-stopping plots.

Smoke in the Sun continues directly from where the previous book left off, leaving the Black Clan in hiding and Okami captured by the shogun. Mariko is back into her family’s arms, although she can’t forget the betrayal of her brother Kenshin. Not only is she engaged to her enemy Raiden, but she also has to pretend like she was a kidnapee instead of the runaway she was in book 1. We get to see a lot of court politics and intrigue in this book instead of the fast action featured in the previous book, but Ahdieh keeps readers guessing with who will betray who first amidst all the scheming.

Her mind could be a sword. Her voice could be an axe.
Her fury could ignite a fire.
Protect.

I really enjoyed Mariko’s introspection in this book, although the purple prose kind of got to me at some points. I think the thing with Ahdieh’s writing and me is that I really appreciate her eloquence and drawn-out exposition, but sometimes it gets to be too much. I remember this happening when I read her previous duology, and this issue would come back here and there while reading this book. I also thought the ending was a bit rushed, and a lot of strings were left hanging. Hopefully Ahdieh could release some extra epilogues for certain characters, because I have Important Questions that were kind of glanced off towards the end.

Mariko and Okami’s romance remains a large part of the plot, as these forbidden lovers try to navigate their relationship between all the court intrigue going on. I really enjoyed seeing Okami grow into himself and take the role that was passed on by his father. The camaderie of the Black Wolf clan was also super sweet to see. We get a lot more random POV’s in this book, including some magical characters whose motives remain a mystery, but they were timed in perfect spots to cause the most speculation.

I’m still a little miffed that book 1 was marketed to be like Mulan – I feel like once a woman cross dresses as a man to become a warrior or run off for her family, that becomes the automatic comparison. It’s valid, but using a Chinese historical figure to describe a Japanese historical story opens up a can of worms that’s a lot to unpack. I discuss about it more in my review of Flame in the Mist. This book, however, delivers solely with its own plot elements that was equal parts refreshing and original.

I’m really happy about this sequel! I think the biggest thing is that I wanted a bit more from the ending, but otherwise Ahdieh provides a solid resolution for our main characters that have definitely suffered through enough. I really enjoyed seeing Mariko and Okami’s character developments, as well as the extra stories with the Black Wolf clan and Kenshin. All the characters had amazing depth – as usual with Ahdieh’s writing – and I can’t wait to read more of her work! The cover change is also gorgeous – this is definitely a keeper for the shelves!

Content/Trigger Warnings: mild violence

Rating: 4 out of 5

Thank you Penguin for the review copy!

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Aila is a young adult reader who loves to transport herself to new dimensions through reading. She's currently an undergraduate student at university in the US. Let's talk about our obsessions on Twitter @aila_1woaa!

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4 responses to “Smoke in the Sun Review: First Book Took an L, but Second Book Bounced Back

  1. Lovely review, Aila! I’m happy to hear you overall had a good time reading this one, I’ve been seeing a lot of mixed reviews about Smoke In The Sun and, even if I personally really enjoyed the first book in the series…. well, all of these reviews made me a little nervous about this sequel. I feel a little better after this review and definitely want to give the book a try 🙂