Published By: Hodder & Stoughton
Goodreads: Add it to your reading list
Rating: 3 out of 5
Synopsis: The only daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has always known she’d been raised for one purpose and one purpose only: to marry. Never mind her cunning, which rivals that of her twin brother, Kenshin, or her skills as an accomplished alchemist. Since Mariko was not born a boy, her fate was sealed the moment she drew her first breath. So, at just seventeen years old, Mariko is sent to the imperial palace to meet her betrothed, a man she did not choose, for the very first time. But the journey is cut short when Mariko’s convoy is viciously attacked by the Black Clan, a dangerous group of bandits who’ve been hired to kill Mariko before she reaches the palace. The lone survivor, Mariko narrowly escapes to the woods, where she plots her revenge. Dressed as a peasant boy, she sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan and hunt down those responsible for the target on her back. Once she’s within their ranks, though, Mariko finds for the first time she’s appreciated for her intellect and abilities. She even finds herself falling in love—a love that will force her to question everything she’s ever known about her family, her purpose, and her deepest desires.
Review: I was very excited for the release of this title, as it had everything I was looking for – written by a solid author., it had mystery and danger, alchemy, a kick-ass heroine, and of course, a beautiful cover. Sadly however it did not live up to my expectations.Although I do love Ahdieh’s style, and there is a lot to enjoy about this book, it just fell short of my expectations. Maybe my own expectations were too high, even though I try not to hype up a book too much due to this possibility. And whilst I did enjoy this book, so many aspects of it just fell that little bit too short for it to be a wonderful read.
The storyline is solid, with a heroine who is trying to break the mold and prove herself more than just a bargaining tool in a political environment. She is determined to prove that she is worth more than her marriage finger, and for this I applaud her. However, something about this character just did not feel complete. Maybe this was because of her drive to prove herself to her family but yet also to herself to herself. She was frustrating and annoying – and although I understand what she was trying to achieve, the way she went about it and her internal monologue was at times flabbergasting. Mariko just needed more depth.
In saying that, there were some secondary characters that I was rather invested in. Although I feel they could have been fleshed out more (hopefully this will happen in the sequel), there were some great, mysterious but yet potentially solid, secondary characters that I really enjoyed and hope to learn much more about in future instalments.
The romance itself left much to be desired for me. I am not going to disclose the love interest, but I will say that while I found this character to be utterly fascinating and complex, I found the romance itself to be unjustified and to be honest, cliché.
This is a complex world. Filled with political agenda, fugitives, magic and warriors – and this is where I truly thought this book would shine. But once again, it fell just that little bit short. It felt like we got shown the puzzle, but certain pieces were missing, and sadly they were rather important pieces. The descriptions went from vague to in-depth, with lots of new (for some readers) terminology without explanation. Now, don’t get me wrong, there is a glossary to use for all this terminology, however with 3 pages of glossary, and with so many mentions, it would be hard to keep up. To me, this meant that there were too many opportunities for the reader to be pulled out of this world (to stop and find out what was being referred to). I understand that we don’t need an in depth description of every new term, however some indication of what it was would have been useful on a lot of occasions and could have easily been included in the narrative without being out of place.
The writing was (surprisingly) one of the things I struggled with at times. I did enjoy the prose, but it could not reduce the impact of the writing alternated between having too much description for obvious things, but yet was not fleshed out at other times when more depth was required. However the setting was amazing and the general storyline was solid (a loose retelling of Mulan). And although the ending itself was not unexpected, I still enjoyed the possibilities that this ending creates for this world.
So while this book just fell that little bit short for me, enough groundwork has been laid to give me hope for future instalments in this series.