MINI MONDAY: Smoke in the Sun by Renee Ahdieh

Smoke in the Sun by Renee Ahdieh is the highly anticipated sequel to New York Times bestselling Flame in the Mist. Released in North America on June 5, 2018, Smoke in the Sun is an addictive, sumptuous finale that will leave readers breathless.

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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To be quite frank, I was really disappointed with this book. Smoke in the Sun was one of my most highly anticipated reads of 2018, and I just feel like I was handed a half-finished manuscript that barely brushed the surface of everything the synopsis promised – never mind the numerous editing errors.

Perhaps I will begin with the easiest complaint – the numerous editing errors. This problem became apparent almost immediately after I started reading the novel – in the second sentence of the book, in fact. How Ahdieh and her editors missed the fact that “funeral” had been misspelled and “funereal” in the second sentence of the book, only a measly 13 words into Smoke in the Sun, I am really not sure. But by about page 20, after 3 more similar errors, it became evident to me that there was an overwhelming issue in regards to the editing of this book. And honestly, it really detracted from my enjoyment, because I spent the rest of the book subconsciously searching for more errors on every page, unable to enjoy the story because I kept getting jarred out of it by such simple typos.

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Now, on to the story. As a reader, after the exciting synopsis, I expected daring political drama, swirling intrigue, and dangerous rescue attempts left, right, and center. I expected the action and tension of Flame in the Mist. Instead Smoke in the Sun ended up being so incredibly boring and full of open endings, I could hardly make myself care about what I was reading. Honestly, just about nothing happened in this one. Mariko’s nuptials hardly seem to matter – she is most certainly not consumed by them, nor does she put on a convincing act of being so. And in regards to the “layers of lies and deception” – what lies and deceptions? What political scheme that threatens their honor? Honestly, I was so confused about the actual purpose of this book, beyond the dragged out nature of the rescue mission for Okami, that I am not convinced there was a plot.

“As swift as the wind, as silent as the forest, as fierce as the fire, as unshakable as the mountain” – Smoke in the Sun, Renee Ahdieh, p.175

The characters were also quite disappointing. There was very little character development for either Mariko or Okami, and I found myself bored with their perspectives quite early on in the novel. However, it seems that I was destined to be let down by even those characters that held interest for me – namely Yumi and Kenshin. Unfortunately, Yumi does not really do anything at all – she’s barely in the book at all, with most of her influence having been implied or simply omitted. And Kenshin? His point of view was dull to the point of tears, lined with unnecessary cruelty, idiocy, and general uselessness – and then Ahdieh herself even seemed to realize this, effectively cutting him from the end of the tale as his character was notably absent from the latter part of the book.

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Finally, one thing that I did enjoy was the romance between Okami and Mariko. While Ahdieh still auspiciously keeps the two apart most of the book, the moments they do share are tender, tense, and passionate, drawing the reader into the seemingly star-crossed romance between the two as they root for them to find a way to defy the odds.

“If no one cares about what is right or wrong[…]then all we hold dear is lost” – Smoke in the Sun, Renee Ahdieh, p.384

Unfortunately, even a passionate romance was not enough to save this bland, poorly written/edited, incomprehensible story from itself. From poor character development, to rampant spelling errors and a horrifically executed plot, Smoke in the Sun did not shine (2/5).

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