Smoke in the Sun by Renée Ahdieh

by Hope Hanson
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Smoke in the Sun Cover

Seventeen-year-old Mariko never expected to find a home with the Black Clan–she’d joined the notorious bandits thirsty for revenge. But as she establishes her place among the group of fighters and forms a bond with Ōkami, the group’s enigmatic leader, Mariko discovers a peace she didn’t know she was looking for.

That’s shattered when her betrothed attacks the clan, capturing Ōkami. To ensure his survival, Mariko will do what she must–even marry the sovereign’s brother, saying goodbye to a life with Ōkami forever.

With the wedding plans underway, Mariko plays the part of the dutiful bride-to-be, using her royal standing to peel back the layers of lies and deception of the imperial court. But each secret she unfurls gives way to another, ensnaring Mariko and Ōkami in a political scheme that threatens their honor, their love, and the very safety of the empire.

–from the back cover of Smoke in the Sun
The book suite 3 Star Review graphic
Rating: 3.5/5

I absolutely loved the first book in this duology, Flame in the Mist. So, obviously, I was really excited to finish the story in the sequel. Especially considering the cliffhanger at the end of that first book.

Honestly, I must say that I liked Flame in the Mist a little bit more than this one. But I still really enjoyed it! So, keep reading my review of Smoke in the Sun to find out what I did and didn’t like about this book.


I think one of the main reasons I didn’t enjoy this book quite as much was because of how high my expectations were. Firstly, I liked Flame in the Mist so much, so obviously I expected a lot from its sequel. But additionally, the blurb made it sound like this book would have a lot of political intrigue. And you know how much I love having politics mixed into my fantasy stories.

Now, there definitely was some of that in this story, don’t get me wrong. But most of it involved Kanako, Raiden’s mother, so we really only saw it in the chapters told from her perspective. Honestly, she just stole the show, and I wish she’d been more involved in the overall story. Because in addition to her political maneuvering, her part of the story also involved a lot of awesome magic.

That being said, I still enjoyed the overall plot of this book. It was exciting and had plenty of twists; it definitely captured and held my attention.

Additionally, I liked Mariko’s character and her development a lot better in this book. I just thought that she was a lot stronger of a character. Because of that, I enjoyed reading about her and her story more. Of course, I also liked a lot of the other characters. Ōkami continued to be amazing, and I loved the insight Ahdieh gave us into Yumi.

Honestly, I would love a spin-off about Yumi. She was an amazing character, and I feel like she still has a story to tell. But, to be fair, I’d love spin-offs about any of these characters. A more in-depth book about Kanako’s past and everything that led up to what we see in these books? Yes, please. The story of how Ōkami and Tsuneoki formed the Black Clan? When I tell you I would sell my soul… 

On a final note, I think the writing in this second installment was slightly less poetic. The writing was a little more to the point and even though the overall style was mostly similar, it just felt a little less magical, in some way.

TL,DR Recommendation

Overall, though, I enjoyed reading this book and I’d recommend giving it a chance. Of course, you should obviously read the first book, first, but I definitely think this duology is worth your time. It has an exciting plot and a lot of great character, and the way magic is interwoven into the world of Feudal Japan is stunning.

If you do choose to read this book or if you already have read it, drop a comment down below and let me know your thoughts! Additionally, if you enjoyed this review of Smoke in the Sun, use the Book Reviews tab above to access my full library of reviews. There, you can find plenty more great books to read!

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Read my review of Flame in the Mist

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