One Sentence Review: An absolutely amazing Mulan retelling that will have you picturing yourself in feudal Japan, I loved everything about this book, from the writing to the setting to the characters.
The daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has long known her place—she may be an accomplished alchemist, whose cunning rivals that of her brother Kenshin, but because she is not a boy, her future has always been out of her hands. At just seventeen years old, Mariko is promised to Minamoto Raiden, the son of the emperor's favorite consort—a political marriage that will elevate her family's standing. But en route to the imperial city of Inako, Mariko narrowly escapes a bloody ambush by a dangerous gang of bandits known as the Black Clan, who she learns has been hired to kill her before she reaches the palace.
Dressed as a peasant boy, Mariko sets out to infiltrate the ranks of the Black Clan, determined to track down the person responsible for the target on her back. But she's quickly captured and taken to the Black Clan’s secret hideout, where she meets their leader, the rebel ronin Takeda Ranmaru, and his second-in-command, his best friend Okami. Still believing her to be a boy, Ranmaru and Okami eventually warm to Mariko, impressed by her intellect and ingenuity. As Mariko gets closer to the Black Clan, she uncovers a dark history of secrets, of betrayal and murder, which will force her to question everything she's ever known. (Summary from Goodreads)
Wow. Just… wow. I’d never read any Renée Ahdieh books before, but after reading this stunning novel, I have a big urge to sprint to my bookshelf to pick up The Wrath & the Dawn.
Everything about this book was beautiful: the characters, the plot, and especially the writing. The descriptions were vivid and gorgeous, and didn’t make the story drag in the slightest in my opinion.
First off, the characters. I loved them all: from Mariko to Okami and Ranmaru to Mariko’s twin brother to the villains. They were all so complex and well-developed, and I adored getting to watch them grow as the story progressed.
Now for the plot. Did I mention this book is a Mulan retelling? A Mulan retelling. If that alone doesn’t make you want to run over to the bookstore immediately to pick up a copy, then maybe the fact that the story was just as fantastic as the characters and the writing will. We all know the story of Mulan, of course, but Ahdieh added just enough of her own creative flair to the original tale to leave us constantly guessing and wondering at what would happen next. My heart was pounding almost throughout the entire book, and everything about it was just so wonderful and perfect.
And finally the writing. The writing. I’ve seen in other reviews that it may not be for everyone, but let me tell you, it was for me. I could so perfectly imagine myself a part of the story, could so flawlessly picture each and every location that was described. Ahdieh’s writing style was lyrical and poetic, and I loved every word.
Overall, what more is there to say? Whether you’re a fantasy fan or not, I highly, highly recommend you give this book a shot (and maybe join Bibliophile Academy’s read-along on Instagram this week while you’re at it! ;)).
Make sure to come back next Wednesday for a new review!