ARC Review: Smoke in the Sun | Ōkami | Yumi

Smoke in the Sun


Title: Smoke in the Sun

Author: Renee Ahdieh

Series: Flame in the Mist, #2

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

Release Date: June 7th 2018

Rating:

Four Stars

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 Ōkami 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 Ōkami in a political scheme that threatens their honour, their love and very the safety of the empire.

– Blurb courtesy of goodreads.com

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This review may contain spoilers for previous book(s) in the series.

My Thoughts On…

…The Plot

“The imperial family will need me to appear strong, just as they are.”
Just as you will need to be.
Because Hattori Mariko had a plan.
And this unwitting woman had already provided her with the first piece of the puzzle.

Mariko finally found her place among the Black Clan before she was ‘rescued’ by her brother and her betrothed, Prince Raiden, and taken to Heian Castle. However Mariko isn’t alone, for the safety of his brothers Ōkami gave himself up to Raiden and the new emperor. The emperor wants answers from Ōkami as to where the remaining members of the Black Clan are hiding and Mariko knows it’s only a matter of time before Ōkami is killed.

Flame in the Mist ended on a cliffhanger, and Smoke in the Sun picks up from there with Mariko and Ōkami both arriving at Heian Castle; one as a prisoner the other as a rescued bride-to-be. While the bulk of the story was told from Mariko’s POV, focusing on her subterfuge as she played dangerous political games with the emperor and his court, we also saw scenes from Kenshin, Prince Raiden and the Black Clan members on the run which added a lot of action to the plot.

“Hattori Mariko has sworn her loyalty to you and to our family has she not? Roku continued.
Raiden nodded, his features still dubious.
“Then,” Roku said as he locked eyes on his prisoner, “your union must go forward with all haste.”

While Mariko prepares for her marriage to Prince Raiden, trying each night to free Ōkami from the prison cell he’s being held in, there are darker forces at work. The Black Clan have grown but they are fighting something beyond their understanding; the previous emperors’ consort is determined to use whatever magic she has at her fingertips to see her son on the throne, and it’s Mariko’s brother caught in the middle. Soon it isn’t just Ōkami Mariko needs to save, but the entire empire.

There was a lot happening in this book, and at times it felt like there were two stories being told, Mariko and Ōkami were planning their escape from Heian Castle while Kenshin, Yumi and the Black Clan fought the magic Raiden’s mother was casting over the empire, but they worked together well. The one issue I had with this book was that the ending felt a little too abrupt. The beginning and middle of Smoke in the Sun built everything up but then the ending seemed crammed into a handful of pages. It feels like there are too many stories left untold.

…The Characters

“Mariko focused instead on preparing herself for what was to come.
Will I be questioned? Doubted? Made to answer for someone else’s crimes?
There was no way to be certain this was not a trap, after all. If she’d learned anything about the imperial court, she’d learned it was a place of secrets and deceit.”

Mariko came into her own in Flame in the Mist when she had the freedom to be who she was, but now in Smoke in the Sun if she hopes to save Ōkami and continue to help the Black Clan she needs to bury that person and become the perfect bride for Raiden. While Mariko is smart and adapt at playing the games the emperor and his court play she is still out of her depth, unsure of how to act in certain situations to protect herself but also to further her own goals.

“To me, you are magic.
A sadness weighted down on her like an anchor in the sea. Mariko quickly shoved it aside before it could find purchase. There was no need to swell on the past. If she wanted the boy she loved to have any kind of future, she needed to remain cold.”

The romance between Mariko and Ōkami takes a backseat in this book, as each have too many things standing in their way they needed to focus on first. The romance was one of the things I was so-so on in the first book so I loved that in this one we got to see more of Mariko growing as her own individual character, rather than focusing on her relationship with Ōkami.

One thing that was done incredibly well in this book was the development of the side characters and their relationships. In Smoke of the Sun we’re introduced to more players in the game who had only been glanced at in the first book, but who are incredibly expanded on in this one. We got more of a friendship between Mariko and Yumi as both girls played their games inside the heart of the empire.

“Raiden’s loyalty to his younger brother ran as the river Kamo through the centre of the imperial city, cutting the land in two. Perhaps Kanako and her son would stand on opposing banks from time to time, but when the plans she had been laying for years finally came to pass, he would be standing beside her, without question.”

My favourite relationship to read was the dynamic between Raiden and his half-brother, the new emperor, Roku. Despite the hatred their mothers tried to raise in them the two boys were close growing up, and at the beginning of Smoke in the Sun Raiden supports his brother, choosing him over his own mother. However as the story unfolds, as you see Roku growing more and more cruel and unstable, you see Raiden start pulling away from him.

The relationship between Mariko and Kenshin was also an interesting one to play out in this book. After what he did to ‘rescue’ her from the Black Clan Mariko can’t forgive Kenshin for being so flippant with her life, and after what happen to Amaya Kenshin isn’t himself. He’s drowning in guilt and grief that seems to be battling against his idea of honour, and it makes him an easy target for Raiden’s mothers’ mind games.

…The Setting

“Besides the lone samurai’s feet strolled a ghostly fox, with yellow eyes much like Tsuneoki’s own. Beastly and unnerving. Otherworldly. A creature of magic. A creature that had sold some part of itself to gain this ability, just as Tsuneoki had. Just as Ōkami had.”

Smoke in the Sun takes the story out of the heart of the Black Clans stronghold in the Jukai forest to the centre of the empire, where everything Mariko has been fighting against seems to be waiting for her. As much as I enjoyed the actual setting I was still left with a lot of questions about the world itself. Ōkami, Tsuneoki, and Raiden’s mother all made deals with demons in exchange for the powers they have, and that was something that was never fully expanded on. The fact that demons exist in this world seemed to be brushed past, and it never seemed to come up other than in reference to those three characters.


Smoke in the Sun was a great ending to the Flame in the Mist duology. For the most part story was built up incredibly well and I loved the character development; both for characters from the first book and new characters with new relationships to explore. Despite the issues I had with the world building and the pace of the ending I was hooked from the first page to the last.

What did you think of Smoke in the Sun? Was it a favourite of yours or could you just not get into the story? Let me know.

All quotes have been taken from an ARC and may differ in the final publication.


Untitled-4

Title: Okami

Author: Renee Ahdieh

Series: Flame in the Mist, #1.25

At the close of Flame in the Mist, to end a bloodbath between the Black Clan and imperial soldiers, Ōkami allows himself to be taken prisoner by Prince Raiden, Mariko’s betrothed. For someone who doesn’t believe in heroes, it’s a surprising choice: to trade his life for the lives of his friends and the one he loves. For he will surely be killed when he arrives in the imperial city. But he decides if his life is the cost of love, it may not be too high a price after all.

– Blurb courtesy of goodreads.com

Ōkami picks up directly after Flame in the Mist ends, and acts as a bridge between the two stories; an epilogue to Flame in the Mist and a prologue for Smoke in the Sun. In the aftermath of the battle the Black Clan lost at the end of Flame in the Mist Ōkami allowed himself to be taken prisoner in exchange for their lives, and now he is travelling back to Heian Castle under heavy guard.

This is a character exercise more than anything else. It gives us a glimpse into Ōkami’s mind as he thinks back on his father, and the choices he made that led to him being imprisoned by Prince Raiden and the new emperor. It’s not necessary to read Ōkami before picking up Smoke in the Sun, but it does gives more insight into his character.


Untitled-4

Title: Yumi

Author: Renee Ahdieh

Series: Flame in the Mist, #1.75

When Yumi receives word of the battle led against her brother and the Black Clan by Prince Raiden and the Dragon of Kai, and of Ōkami’s sacrifice, she resents the bars of her gilded cage all the more. She’s tired of being a sheltered bird, protected in the Hanami. What Yumi really wants is to strike a blow against all the forces that control her life. The time has come.

– Blurb courtesy of goodreads.com

Yumi again takes place after the events of Flame in the Mist but before the opening of Smoke in the Sun. When Yumi hears of Ōkami’s capture, that he has been taken to the imperial city, she doesn’t know what she alone can do, but anything is better than the inaction she has lived with ever since her brother left her in Hanami.

Again Yumi is a character exercise but I enjoyed this one much more than Ōkami. We didn’t get to see much of Yumi in Flame in the Mist, or hear from her POV, so this novella gives us an insight into someone who is sure to be a bigger player in Smoke in the Sun. Like her brother Yumi is tired of the way things are, and she’s determined to do whatever she can to change things for her family.

18 thoughts on “ARC Review: Smoke in the Sun | Ōkami | Yumi

  1. I’m happy to see you enjoyed this!! personally, Flame in the Mist fell wayyy below my expectations but I’ve still got my eye on the sequel because I’d like to know how everything works out. I’m super glad to hear that romance takes a backseat because I definitely wasn’t a fan of Mariko and Okami :”) I’m excited for the political intrigue that you mention though because that always adds some much-needed suspense/tension to the plot! hopefully more of the magic is explained because I found the worldbuilding to be a little rushed in Flame in the Mist?

    overall, this is a perfect review! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah I thought it was a good story overall. Oh that’s a shame about Flame in the Mist but hopefully you’ll enjoy this one better too.
      That was something I enjoyed about this one as well. I would have preferred Mariko had a chance to grow as an individual character in this duology rather than having a relationship right off the bat.
      See I thought the world building was a little lacking, but I dunno maybe you’ll feel differently.
      Thanks Hannah. 🙂 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I will admit that I skimmed your review, as I haven’t read Flame In The Mist just yet – but I’m so glad you enjoyed that one as well, even if you had a couple issues with the pacing and world-building at times. I can’t wait to read this series 😀 Lovely review, Beth! ❤ ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha, yeah I’d recommend reading Flame in the Mist at least because this review had a fair few spoilers in it. Overall Smoke in the Sun is a good read, I managed to overlook the few small issues I had because it’s an addictive story for sure.
      Thanks Marie. 🙂 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Glad you enjoyed it! Tbh I found Flame in the Mist underwhelming but I’m still curious about what will happen next, especially about the upcoming magic battle and political intrigue. I’m annoyed that the magic and supernatural aspect are left unexplained though, it’s exactly the same problem I had with The Wrath and The Dawn duology and she did it here again!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much. Ohh, in that case I hope you enjoy Smoke in the Sun more then. I think I preferred the second book a little more despite the rushed feeling the ending had. It felt like there was a lot more at stake for the characters.
      See I didn’t notice it as much in The Wrath and the Dawn duology, but I really did in this one, kind of felt like it didn’t fit in with the rest of the story you know?

      Like

  4. This sounds like it’d be hard to put down! It’s a shame that the ending was rushed though – I hate when you feel cheated because not every single strand of the story was tied up as you’d have liked.

    Liked by 1 person

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