Smoke in the Sun by Renee Ahdieh

Smoke in the Sun by Renee Ahdieh

Overall Rating: 3/5

Quality of Prose: 4/5

Quality of Story: 1/5

Quality of Characters: 3/5

Ability to Make the Audience Think/Feel Differently: 2/5

How Long It Took Me to Finish: All summer

A 1 Sentence Summary

While awaiting her marriage to the imperial prince, Mariko attempts to free her love Okami from prison, figure out why her brother betrayed her, and discover who was behind her assassination attempt.

My Favorite Quotes

“I see mystery and sadness. Anger. Not necessarily because you were born a woman…but more because you have always been treated as less than you are…We should create a world for women like us. It would be a thing to see.”

Untitled-4

What I Loved About It

As a sequel to Flame in the Mist, a novel I absolutely loved, there are, of course some automatic redeeming qualities to Smoke in the Sun. First, it’s written by the genius Renee Ahdieh, who is usually so amazingly good at creating complex characters, writing incredibly sensuous and descriptive prose, and developing super compelling action, suspense, and romance. Ahdieh did all of those things in Flame in the Mist (and she definitely did them in The Wrath and the Dawn and The Rose and the Dagger), but I found that while the characters she created in the prequel were still strong and complex in this novel, I cared far less what happened to them. This is even more true with her new characters that didn’t appear in the prequel. Her prose is less interesting in this novel, and the trademark action and suspense that usually lead Ahdieh’s plots is lacking as well. The reason it took me so long to finish Smoke in the Sun is because literally nothing happens in the first 75% of the novel. Okami is tortured, Mariko argues with her brother and meets the princes’ mothers. That’s it.

It’s true that Ahdieh’s sequels are never as good or as interesting as the first books in her series. But The Rose and the Dagger, while certainly not as good as The Wrath and the Dawn, was still a very compelling read, with new characters, new plotlines, less romance but a whole lot of–super interesting–action. And this was simply not the case in Smoke in the Sun. As a HUGE Renee Ahdieh fanatic, in a word, I would call this book disappointing. (And it truly pains me to say that, as The Wrath and the Dawn series is my all-time favorite YA romance/fantasy series and as I really, truly loved Flame in the Mist.)

I’m not saying Ahdieh has lost her touch (I refuse to ever believe that), just that this particular novel is not quite up to her usual unmatched quality–which, come to think of it, was also the case with de la Cruz’s Love and War or Jae-Jones’ Shadowsong.

Sequels are hard.

What My Students Could Learn From It

Despite my own crushing disappointment, I think my students who enjoy a good fantasy romance would still enjoy this novel and the series as a whole. And, like all of Ahdieh’s books, it still features a very strong female lead, a great feminist message, and a window into ancient Japanese culture. Which are definitely some redeeming factors.

Advertisements
Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart

Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart

Overall Rating: 3.75/5

Quality of Prose: 3.5/5

Quality of Story: 4/5

Quality of Characters: 4/5

Ability to Make the Audience Think/Feel Differently: 3.5/5

How Long It Took Me to Finish: 3 days

A 1 Sentence Summary

When found by a detective on a resort in Mexico, Jule’s (possible spy/possible super hero/possible murderer) story unfolds in reverse chronological order and her many secrets are revealed.

My Favorite Quotes

“To be a physically powerful woman–it was something. You could go anywhere, do anything, if you were difficult to hurt.”

“‘Shut up, little girl, you’ve said enough.’ ‘Stop, little girl, don’t hit, use your words’–and shut up at the same time. They squash you. They want you to be small and silent. Good was just another word for don’t fight back.”

“‘The important thing is this: to be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are for what we could become.’ –Charles Do Bos”

What I Loved About It

If you read my review of Lockhart’s other mystery/suspense/thriller We Were Liars, you’d know I was really really impressed by Lockhart’s prose and her GIGANTIC twists in that novel. Because of that, I was really really looking forward to reading Lockhart’s newest novel. I was ready for another twist, and I must say this book definitely delivered. The twist in this one is crazy and, while not completely unexpected, definitely blew me away.

Lockhart’s prose in this novel isn’t quite as impressive as that in We Were Liars, but it’s still really good and she has a really really unique talent in creating a protagonist who is, for all intents and purposes, (SPOILER ALERT) an evil, identity-less murderer and yet who the audience really sympathizes with.

The fact that the story is told in reverse chronological order is another testament to E. Lockhart’s literary genius and really makes the story a lot more suspenseful and intriguing. I can’t even imagine how hard it was to write a novel like that. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: E. Lockhart. Is. The. Bomb.

I really did enjoy reading this book. However, I found myself being fairly confused when the book ended (which, to be fair, was probably Lockhart’s intent). The book ends rather abruptly and left me questioning A LOT of what happened throughout the book. To be fair, I could definitely see the structure and narrative of this novel being too confusing for many of my lower level readers and just complex enough for my more advanced readers.

What My Students Could Learn From It

The unique structure of the book would be great for teaching text structure and how a text’s structure affects the narrative itself. It’d also be a great book for teaching about the unreliability of narrators. Jule, the protagonist (IF THAT’S EVEN HER REAL NAME), is, after all, not the most trustworthy source for information and even by the end of the book, many of the mysterious details of her life and character are still not revealed or clarified.

The book also has a lot to say about gender roles and expectations , as well as identity, and could foster a really interesting conversation amongst students about those things.

And of course the violent, murder-y bits of the story would provide plenty of intrigue for the kids. They eat that stuff up.