If you’re a sucker for a spoonful of tragic romance but like at least 3 cups of adventure and mystery (aka betrayal) then this book was made for you!
The story is about a girl called Maiko who is journeying to the imperial palace to be wedded off to the bastard child of the Emperor. Her carriage is attacked by mysterious people and she barely survives. Afterward, she decides to track down her attackers, she thinks that they’re the Black clan, and finds them. She takes this opportunity to ‘relax’ disguised as a boy. Unfortunately, they kidnap him/her (they don’t know he’s a she) and forcibly make her a recruit. Later in the book, her brother tries to track her down but she has grown rather fond of the Black clan and refuses to leave. Much later Black clan is attacked by her brother and Imperial forces – Maiko is forcibly married to the bastard child and her lover, lone behold who is part of the Black clan, and everyone except their leader is killed. THE END! Oh yeah, the cowardly Emperor is poisoned by the Emperoress and dies.
The main themes of this book are:
- Honor – what we distinguish as wrong and right and this book really cuts down on this as it philosophy’s the means of honor again and again.
- Responsibility – looking at this from a modern perspective the responsibility placed on women and men from this era in Japan really surprised me. It seemed like men could do no wrong while women could only do wrongs.
- Sexism – I myself have very strong feelings about how women and men were not, and in some cases still aren’t, treated as equals. This book approaches this matter in a very head-on way. In fact, the main character Maiko herself spends more than half the book pretending to be a male just to get some okay respect. When she was a female she wasn’t given nearly as much respect (or so she claims) and freedom. I have to say that I love how the character Maiko struggles to find peace with the fact that she is a woman and that that is OK!
- Romance – who you’re supposed to love and how love comes into your life in the most unexpected yet worse and best time. This book mixes the forbidden fruit of love and the bittersweet taste of failure together perfectly.
The best yet worst part about this book is the ending. It ends so abruptly that I had to keep checking if that truly was the end, and to be honest it shocked me. (SPOILER ALERT) I couldn’t believe that in the end, the MC Mariko became the bride (against her will) to the Emperor’s (bastard) son, her true love was killed and her brother was misled into allowing this to happen even though he loves his sister dearly. Though I suppose you could question this by asking why he didn’t stop her from becoming the Prince’s escort if she did not want to. URRGH! SO MANY QUESTIONS! Just to name a few:
- What did Maiko do after she became the prince’s bride? Did she run away? Did she learn to love him or do they hate each other? Did she actually accept her fate
- What happened to the Black clan? Were they all really killed? Did none of them escape? What happened!!?!??!
- What did they Emperoress do? I know she poisoned the Emperor but what happened after that? Did she end up kicking out her husband’s bastard son? Did she kick out his royal consort? Did she find a new husband? Did the ruler of Wa pass to her son? Was she the person who hired people to attack Maiko in the beginning? Who were those people?
- What happened to Kenshin? was he reunited with Amaya? Or was that just a trick of the Emperoress? Did he really let his sister become a (slave) bride????
To finish up – if any of you do read the book, feel free to discuss details/theories with me, I’d love to! I hope that Renée Ahdieh decides to create another book but I’m pretty sure she wanted to leave it at a cliffhanger. URRGH!!! DAMN! Really good book though! – If you haven’t gathered that yet.