This is compared to Mulan, which is one of my favorites (duh). I would explain this in the exact same way I would explain A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas or Cinder by Marissa Meyer: It starts out being a retelling of [insert whichever princess movie here], but turns drastically different.
THE CHARACTER GROWTH IN THIS IS SO REAL. I LOVED THIS SO MUCH.
The main character Mariko has been raised to someday marry well and elevate her family’s social standing. Her father has a lucky cricket apparently, because the story starts with her on her way to marry the prince. Right away, the story gets actiony because her convoy is attached by a group of men called The Black Clan.
Being a woman, she wasn’t raised to fight, but she knows how to think. She is very good at assessing a situation (and she might also have a lucky cricket).
If someone was sent to kill me, I would probably have done the same thing as she does: disguises as a man and figure out what in the world she did to deserve such treatment. I’m not sure if I could plan on killing the people, but my curiosity would kill me. She, thinking things out more than I would, knows that she would be sent back to the prince if she went back home to her family.
Taking to the other point of view, Kenshin, her brother, is a samurai known as The Dragon of Kai. He will not take “she’s dead” for an answer and knows his sister well enough to know that she is alive. He takes it upon himself to track Mariko and kill every last member of the Black Clan for, er, well attempting to kill his sister for starters.
Mariko’s goals are to gain The Black Clan’s trust, see how they work, and strike when they least expect it. But the more she engages with these boys, the more her goals change from what they were. Why? Because she realizes the truths she was fed her whole life are actually lies. Her life basically is turned upside down. So what is she to do?
I love The Black Clan
The leader, Okami, is amazing. He teaches Mariko how to fight, he hates Mariko but also finds himself having strange feelings for her (or, er, him). He actually has a back story as well that you learn when you read the book. It’s actually what gives this book so much depth and complications, and separates it from the tale it is retelling. Their little romance. is. so. cute. The fact that he treats her as an equal should make you want to read this book to begin with.
I enjoyed the fact that not only was there a strong female lead who grew as a character, but that the characters around her also supported her. Like the female lead wasn’t the only feminist in the bunch. This is the first book I have ever read by Ahdieh and I just hope the rest of her books are this empowering and enlightening.
I absolutely enjoyed this book and I’m antsy to get the second. It ended on such a cliff hanger that —UGH. I was not okay.