When I was writing a review for this book on Goodreads, I debated for a long while whether it was 2 or 3 stars. Since, I think, the problem lay with me, I didn’t ruin the rating of the book by giving it 2 stars. But, to be honest, it was a 2.5 star read for me. Sure it was well researched but I felt nothing while reading it, save for a few fond reminders of animes and Kdramas.
Characters were flat. I couldn’t imagine or connect to any of them. Mariko didn’t annoy me as much as she did other people but she wasn’t a protagonist I was very interested in. Others were just there. I didn’t see any meaningful and genuine interactions between them. It all felt very plastic.
The setting was not fully explored. It was well researched, I’ll give Renee Ahdieh that, but we just rushed through the settings without feeling the authenticity of how the world she created would affect the characters.
The writing, while in and of itself was beautiful, in the end it only added up to a mediocre mess. It reminded me of a project I did in 8th grade. We had to come up with an invention idea and make an advertising poster for it. Mine was a robot designer who could scan a room and come up with different looks for it. I worked meticulously on every drawing and found pictures of the coolest interior designs. Then I put everything onto a large poster paper we were given and saw just how disjointed the project looked as a whole. Even though each individual part was quite beautiful, the whole shabang wasn’t.
That’s how it was with this story (again, it might have just been me too). It felt like there was no logical order to things. No logical motivation to characters’ actions and reactions.
Here’s the summary of the plot: 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.

So Mariko decides to infiltrate a band of mercenaries who were hired to kill her. The Wolf (her true wuv) hides his true identity for all these years. I don’t even know what happens to the emperor’s wife and consort, it was boring to read so I skimmed their chapters. Then Mariko and others attack her home. Then she sets the granary on fire. Then her brother’s crush dies. But then we find out she’s not dead. Then other spoilery stuff happens.
And the whole time I was like:

In the end, I wasn’t very impressed, just as I wasn’t impressed with 47 Ronin, which this was admittedly inspired by (that and Mulan, but there was very little of Mulan here).
I’d rather go watch Sungkyunkwan Scandal again. It’s set in Korea but it’s also about a girl who dresses up as a boy, makes friends with a group of amazing and hilarious guys, and deals with political intrigues. It’s historical. It has many bromances. And it’s 100% more awesome, captivating, funny and romantic.
I can’t stop myself from adding more gifs and pics. Why. Is. It. So. Difficult.
Ok, I’ll go before I can insert another…
Oops, sorry, couldn’t resist.
This time it really is good bye.

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