The only daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has always known she’d been raised for one purpose and one purpose only: to marry. Never mind her cunning, which rivals that of her twin brother, Kenshin, or her skills as an accomplished alchemist. Since Mariko was not born a boy, her fate was sealed the moment she drew her first breath.
So, at just seventeen years old, Mariko is sent to the imperial palace to meet her betrothed, a man she did not choose, for the very first time. But the journey is cut short when Mariko’s convoy is viciously attacked by the Black Clan, a dangerous group of bandits who’ve been hired to kill Mariko before she reaches the palace.
The lone survivor, Mariko narrowly escapes to the woods, where she plots her revenge. Dressed as a peasant boy, she sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan and hunt down those responsible for the target on her back. Once she’s within their ranks, though, Mariko finds for the first time she’s appreciated for her intellect and abilities. She even finds herself falling in love—a love that will force her to question everything she’s ever known about her family, her purpose, and her deepest desires.
I received this book in exchange for my honest review.
Here it is. This book is NOT a Mulan retelling as marketed. I has some similarities to Mulan such as the main character dressing as a man, having an awkward bath scene, being trained by the Commander, and, not wanting anyone to figure out her true identity. There may be other tiny tweaks that seem similar but those were the ones that jumped out at me.
This author is a gifted story-teller who does an obvious amount of research about her subject matter. Her story is beautifully put together from start to finish. Characters in this book are well developed, even the secondary characters like Yumi, Ren and Yoshi.
Kenshin’s character is multi-layered, very complex and extremely resourceful and I especially loved how his affection toward his sister is displayed. On the flip-side, he is one bad-ass cruel warrior.
Mariko, the Protagonist, is more intelligent than physically strong and she uses cunning to deal realistically with issues than physical prowess. However, although intelligent, the author did have her making rather stupid decisions and it felt almost as though the author didn’t want Mariko coming off as too smart, which irritated me. It was that, or she didn’t want the reader turned off of the story because the Protagonist was a smart woman. Intelligence should never be a hindrance. The author also did a lot of telling the reader how smart Mariko was, rather than showing and I wonder if that was done to allow the reader to get to know Mariko first, or warn them of her intelligence so they have a chance to warm up to the idea. Either way, I thought it was a waste of time.
The relationship between Kenshin and Mariko is one of my favorites. Theirs grow throughout the story from its sweet beginnings to where they move toward separate goals with Mariko’s character arc expanding and developing the most from its original start. Okami is one of the many who aids in that development as he becomes the most involved with its growth.
The author’s writing style is strong and definitive, her voice assured and charismatic. Plot flows smoothly, transitioning from one scene to the next without fault, and the setting… so very well researched and beautifully written.
For a fantasy, I think this book did very well. I give it: