Smoke in the Sun by Renée Ahdieh
Publication: June 5th, 2018
Genre: Ya Fantasy Romance
After Okami 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 Okami in a political scheme that threatens their honor, their love and the very safety of the empire.
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She needed him to cast her as the hapless victim instead of the willing villain. Though I plan to be a villain in all ways.
I adored this book just as much as number one. Mariko and Okami stole my heart again but with so much danger looming over them, this book was more political and less romantic. It was really nice to see Ahdieh focus more on the political aspects of this world than the romance. We all know she is a queen at writing romance (WRATH AND THE DAWN PEOPLE) so, it was nice to see her tackle a different aspect of this fantasy genre. Mariko is under scrutiny from everyone in the royal family now that she is in Inako because they don’t trust her. She will do whatever is necessary to ensure her and Okami’s survival. There are so many lies and secrets going around in this palace it’s a wonder anything gets done. Ahdieh completely sucks you into the plot and she is a master at plot twists and shocking me when I least expect it. It was exciting seeing this story from different point of views so we got a few different plots that all intertwined. Mariko has to blend into this life of the dutiful wife to Raiden while also working to help Okami and the Black Chan. The emperor is sinister and truly a sick person but his purpose in the plot was really done well and added to the whole effect. There was a lot of moments that I had to close my eyes because of ruthless the plot got. Trigger warnings for abuse and child abuse.
That time had not passed. It had merely changed. What would have once been shame had morphed into anger and calculation. Where there was anger, there was no room for shame.
Mariko is just as kick-ass as before. I really enjoyed how Ahdieh wrote her. She is a strong selfless girl but at times she struggles with things. It makes her more real because everything doesn’t come easy for her just because she is the main character. Okami is just as sexy and wonderful. I loved getting more into his mind and seeing what he struggles with. Kenshin was a really good character. I loved the morally grey characteristic that the author created with him. Then we had Prince Raiden and his mother Kanako. I loved what Renée did with them because at first, you wanted to hate them, but they surprised you. You really had to learn more about them to really understand them. I especially loved Prince Raiden’s growth. Yumi and Tsuneoki were excellent supporting characters. Both played major roles in the overall plot and plans that Ahdieh laid out for Matiko and Okami. It was lovely to see Yumi really shine and assert herself as more than just a girl in a teahouse. She was a force to be reckoned with. Lastly, the ruthless Emperor. This man was evil. He was an excellent antagonist. I really wanted to fight him myself lol.
“Ingenuity could be a weapon, in all its forms. Her mind could be a sword. Her voice could be an ax. Her fury could ignite a fire.”
I don’t feel like I even need to mention this because miss Ahdieh is one of my favorite authors. Her writing is exceptional. The romance and moments with Mariko & Okami were just stunning. She made me melt in 100,000 puddles because of how swoon-worthy every moment, word and touch was. The world-building and magic system was exciting and vivid. I wanted more and could not get enough. The political aspect of the book was actually really intriguing. A lot of times politics in books can become boring and wordy. This book had a lot of power play and a lot of the culture infused in it. I truly loved it so much.
“I want to tell you I love you, without chains around my feet. Without reservations. I want to hold you as I say it. Beneath an open sky…I want to touch you…I want to run my hands across your skin and listen to you sigh.”
Where can I get myself a man like Okami? Guys the things this man said to Mariko really had me shaking and swooning. He really did not let me rest. I have no idea how Mariko did not get weak knees or something because no lie one time I actually fell because of a line in the book. Miss Ahdieh has no respect for my heart because her romances are too good. She must be stopped but she also needs to continue writing books for the rest of her life because boy can she write romance omg. It leaves me breathless and wanting more. I really could not get enough of it.
“We should create a world for women like us. It would be a thing to see.”
“Ours is a love stronger than fear and deeper than the sea.”
“The Emperor of Wa enjoyed toying with people to see how they would react. And Mariko refused to be any man’s toy.
“Are you jealous?” A pause. “Only a fool would not be.” “That’s ridiculous. Jealousy is for boorish people. Are you a boor?” “Of course I am. And of course, I would be jealous. That steaming heap of refuse doesn’t have to sleep in a barred cell. He can gaze at the moonlight whenever he wishes,” he muttered. “It’s a shame the moon has eyes for another.”
“For defying all the odds to try to rescue a selfish thief who lied to you at every turn. You are the least useless warrior I’ve ever met, Lady Mariko. Never forget that.”
“If you are water, I am fire.”
“The best jokes end with s*** or death.”
“I imagine the moon would be a thing of beauty on a night like this. But I prefer what I am looking at now…”You likely say that to all the girls who rescue you, she mumbled. He did not smile. “They are a candle in the sunlight compared to you.”
“Sometimes men do not realize the power a woman can possess.”
Though his body was shattered, the weapons felt natural in his hands, like extensions of himself. Of his pain. Of his heartbreak.”
Only Okami could do what needed to be done. It was time for him to forgive his past. Not forget it. Only a fool would forget such things. But if he could not let go of his demons in his past, how could he ever hope to embrace his greatest fear? Who he was. Who he’d always been. Who he was meant to be.
“You owe no man anything, Mariko.”
“Right now, I cannot love you as I want…So let me worship you for a breath of time…”Tell me to stop, and I will,” he said…”No,” Mariko breathed…He brushed aside the fabric to reveal the hollow of her throat. When he kissed her there—again so softly—Mariko’s fingers turned to fists.”
“Then he knelt at her feet and took hold of her ankle, exposing the skin of her leg. Okami pressed another kiss on the inside of her knee. “Tell me to stop, and I will.”…”No,” Mariko said quietly. Clearly. “I don’t want you to stop.”
“Okami kissed higher. The feeling of his lips on her thigh sent a frisson of warmth through her body. A delicious shiver curled up her spine. “Never worshi[ any man, Hattori Mariko.” Okami steadied her. “But always be worshiped.” When he moved again, time slowed to a stutter, then sped forward in a rush. Mariko closed her eyes and tangled her fingers in his hair. “Yes.”
“You were foolish to challenge Roku.” “And you were foolish to let him rule without question.”
“Your passivity gives him leave to act like a monster. If you allow a monster to destroy everything in its path, then you are no better than the monster, Raiden.”