Rating: 3 stars

“Be as swift as the wind. As silent as the forest. As fierce as the fire. As unshakable as the mountain. And you can do anything…”

I have heard mixed reviews for this book, it seems to be either someone loved it or they hated it. I, for one, am neither, I thought this book wasn’t the best but definitely wasn’t considered bad. This book has potential, it was more of an introduction to the series.

I loved Renée’s writing, it’s so beautifully told. I believe that’s what caught my eye the most was how this book was written. Although a complaint, whenever she brought up Raiden, she would continue to add, “Her betrothed.” I understand why it’s said in the beginning but the fact that it was brought up multiple times, just to remind the reader of who he was in relation to Mariko, was a bit excessive for my taste.

I think this book was lacking quite a few things for me. It lacked world building, we didn’t really know anything about the world only that there’s an empire with an emperor, and there are different groups of people, higher and lower in class. It also lacked a lot of character development; the only character that really developed in some way was Mariko but that was only towards the end of the book.

“There is such strength in being a woman. But it is a strength you must choose for yourself. No one can choose it for you. We can bend the wind to our ear if we would only try.”

Speaking of Mariko’s character, it seemed that all that she had to say was all talk and no show. She spoke highly of herself but she really never showed any of her strength, and it really showed when “Okami” was teaching her how to use a Katana, and she was struggling through that. I will admit that she did take a big step once the Black Clan abandoned her, she decided to show herself as a girl and she understood what she was risking, and I think that’s the strongest move she made in the entire novel.

I was expecting this novel to be more action-packed than it actually was because there was so much tension between different sides. There were a few instances where there was action, for example when Mariko was trying to create a distraction in the tea house, or when Kenshin attacked the Black Clan but it was mostly just talking and traveling. So, I would have hoped to see more development throughout if there wasn’t going to be any action.

Regarding the romance in this novel, I think that it was something that was needed, because although I predicted they would be attracted to each other, I think it took away from everything else, and even though there wasn’t much chemistry between them, they still needed each other for what they’ve learned, especially Mariko because without him being so arrogant, she wouldn’t have become stronger. I’m not saying that she needed a man to guide her, I’m just saying that she needed help from him without either of them knowing it. Also “Okami” or Renmaru also learned things from her, that he needed to as well.

Overall, I think that this book was a good starting point, and I want to see where this series continues on. Although it was lacking a few things, I think her writing style made the story so much better, if it hadn’t I don’t think this would be as good as it could have been then.

“Bravery did not come to her naturally. She spent too much time weighing her options to be brave. Too much time calculating the many paths before her. But Mariko knew it was time to do more. Time to be more. She would not die a coward.” 

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