Rating – 3.5/5
“The only daughter of a prominent Samurai, Mariko has always known that being a woman means she’s not in control of her fate. Never mind her cunning or her skills as an accomplished alchemist, Mariko was raised for one purpose only: to marry. At just seventeen years old, Mariko is sent to the imperial palace to meet her betrothed, a man she did not choose. But the journey is cut short when her convoy is ambushed by the Black Clan – a group of bandits hired to kill Mariko before she reaches the palace. The lone survivor of the attack, Mariko swears revenge on those who want her dead: she infiltrates the Black Clan disguised as a peasant boy and befriends their leader. The clan warms to Mariko, impressed by her intellect and ingenuity – but as she gets closer to her enemies, Mariko uncovers a dark history of secrets that will force her to question everything she’s ever known.”
This book was a highly anticipated read for me as I heard it was a Mulan retelling and Mulan is one of my favourite Disney films. Whilst I shortly learned that the book bears little resemblance to Mulan, I did see a lot of similarities to the story I love.
I’d heard very mixed reviews about this book but for the most part, I really enjoyed it! This is my first Renee Ahdieh book and I really loved her writing style – it was poetic but in a way that was still very easy to read. I also really enjoyed the characters she created as I was constantly torn between loving and hating them. Mariko was a really feisty female lead and I really warmed to her character, much like I did with most of the members of the Black Clan.
Unfortunately, what let this book down for me is that I never knew what was going on. It isn’t one of those books that slowly feeds you information so that by the end of the book you know exactly who is on what side; by the end of the book, I still had no idea what had happened and who the bad guys were! This let the book down for me as even though I did really enjoy it, I feel as though I couldn’t fully engage with the story because I didn’t know what was happening. I understand that there is going to have a sequel, which will hopefully explain more but this lack of understanding really let this book down.
I will most definitely be picking up the sequel and reading more from Renee Ahdieh as I really enjoyed her writing style!