Young Adult Fiction, Fantasy
May 16, 2017
Mariko, the daughter of a prominent Samurai, is on her way to meet her betrothed when her convoy is attacked by the Black Clan in the forest. Her entire convoy is killed, but she manages to escape unnoticed, and her would-be assassins assume that she has perished. Fuelled by vengeance and determined to find out who was behind her attempted murder and why, Mariko disguises herself as a peasant boy and seeks out the Black Clan. But she doesn't find what she expects. She doesn't expect to find a place where she finally feels like she belongs. She doesn't expect that she is going to question everything she's every known. And she certainly doesn't expect to fall in love.
The only power any man has over you is the power you give him.”
I’m going to be perfectly honest with you. I wasn’t completely hooked on this book at the beginning, but that’s mostly to do with the amount of Japanese words used. I have an ARC copy that was sent to me by the publisher, and it doesn’t have the glossary of words in the back that the finished copy has. Other than the excessive use of Japanese words that requires flipping to the glossary if you want to fully understand certain things, Renée Ahdieh’s writing style is amazing. Her descriptions are so vivid and really allow you to create an image in your mind. For example:
The river before Mariko flowed at a leisurely pace. The lanterns hanging from the balustrades on either side of the bridge swayed brightly. At its end – along the opposite riverfront – a line of dogwoods interspersed with cherry trees shaded everything from view. Kept it hidden. Secret. The scent of jasmine and musk curled its invisible fingers toward them, beckoning them closer. When Mariko followed Ōkami and Ranmaru across the bridge, a shower of pink and white petals caressed her skin before cascading into the water like thick flakes of snow.”
This novel has also been largely compared to Mulan, and rightfully so, but it is not a Mulan retelling. Unlike Mulan, Mariko doesn’t go to war for her country. She disguises herself as a boy to infiltrate a camp of assassins who tried to kill her. Which if you ask me, is pretty freakin’ badass. She’s strong, smart, resourceful, brave, and an incredibly original character.
But she’s not the only awesome character in this book. All of the characters, from Mariko’s twin brother, Kenshin, to her love interest [whose name I will not reveal because *SPOILERS*] are fully thought out and well-rounded characters. And we not only get to see Mariko’s thoughts on the characters, but the story also follows Kenshin as he and his fellow Samurais try to search for Mariko after she goes missing.
The plot moves along at a quick pace, and although it takes a couple chapters to really get into it, the novel is entirely engrossing, and has a twist of an ending that will leave you begging for the sequel!