The sequel to this book is coming out soon, or was just published, or something of the sort, and is being promoted heavily, which means this book is also being promoted heavily. So.... no surprise it ended up on my reading list. I had, I don't know, enough non-fiction books read that a binge on fiction books didn't seem TOO out of character for me, and this one was available at the library, so, I read it.
Definitely a young adult book, though I'm not fully sure why I feel that way. Maybe the speed of the reading, maybe the uncomplicated words used, maybe the plot, maybe the characters themselves are young, maybe the lack of subtlety, I don't know. The book felt YA in a way that many YA don't feel.
Which isn't to say I didn't enjoy it. I did, it just wasn't a difficult read. Fast paced fluff, set in a magical alternate universe of feudal Japan. All the "women are property" and "boys fight with swords" and "this boy happens to have none of the usual hormones in him during his teens" stereotypes of how feudal Japan is viewed from the West.
Quick read, I added the sequel to my reading list, putting the hold out at two months. I'm somewhat invested in the characters, but not enough to drop everything. It's a cute book, and recommended if you're a fan of the genre or the author. If you want a great review of the book from someone writing a review and not just posting notes as I am, Alex Brown has a good one, which also lists more eloquently some of the reasons for my lack of enthusiasm for the book (because it's been done before).
She knew she was being difficult. Knew Nobutada wished for her to make a decision. At the very least, wished for her to offer an opinion. To make a useless play at control. A play Nobutada could then smugly subvert, as her elder. As a man.
Try as she might, Mariko could not help the resentment simmering beneath the surface. Control is an illusion. Expectations will not rule my days. Not anymore.
She softened her tone—a pitiful attempt to mollify him. One that was sure to chafe, as her contrary nature so often did. Her brother, Kenshin, frequently gave her grief about it. Frequently told her to be less ... peculiar. To conform, at least in these small ways.
Yeah, less odd.
A constant reminder. But he could not afford to feel remorse for his past decisions. They had not been made lightly.
This was an experiment, and experiments of all sorts intrigued her. They offered a way to glean knowledge. To use it—shape it, mold it—into whatever she needed it to be.
Hattori Mariko had lived a life disdaining much of the silk and luxury her status had afforded her, and there was a delicious comfort in no longer having to put on airs that had always seemed so foreign to her.
Sometimes we must fall forward to keep moving. Mariko had not understood it at the time. Only recently had she begun to grasp its meaning. Remain motionless—remain unyielding—and you are as good as dead. Death follows indecision, like a twisted shadow. Fall forward. Keep moving. Even if you must pick yourself up first.
“If you intend to take anything, then take my advice,” he said. “This one time only, I’ll offer it without cost: the best way to win a fight is to avoid it.”
“You haven’t brought your sword to be polished in quite some time.” Amaya stepped toward him. “My father mentioned it only yesterday.” She held out her left hand. “Give it to me.”
“I am not calm,” she said finally. “It’s a constant effort to quell my fear.”
“Then why bother?”
“Because I do not wish to appear weak.”
“And you shouldn’t dismiss your abilities. It insults both you and me at the same time.” Another raise of his brows. She suspected people did not often speak to Yoshi in such a direct manner.
“Is that so?”
“Yes. You insult yourself by dismissing skills that took you a lifetime to develop. At the same time you insult me by stating that I need only try—as though the only hindrance is my own lack of effort.” Mariko’s speech grew more rapid with each passing word. She took a deep breath before continuing. “To even attempt something, one must first believe in the possibility. And then be granted an opportunity.”
“Consistency is not enough. It doesn’t account for chance, and there is always a chance the handle will strike the mark instead of the blade. No amount of skill can thwart it every time.”
“I believe the stars align so that souls can find one another. Whether they are meant to be souls in love or souls in life remains to be seen.”
Beautiful words were beautiful words, even to the most practical of minds.
“Have you ever loved anyone?” she asked Ranmaru bluntly, pleased to see him startle, if only for a heartbeat. Serves him right for starting this mess. Ranmaru hesitated before replying.
“Did it feel like magic?”
Irritation bled into each syllable. “Sometimes it does.” But his smile was not from the heart. “Other times it feels like an endless siege.”
“Another reason I cannot possibly be water.” Though there was heat to her words, she kept her voice even. “Water is temperamental. It doesn’t assume any shape on its own. It takes the shape of whatever is around it. And I have never wished to be controlled by my surroundings.”
“And yet you are, all the same.” She splashed water at him. His smile was thoughtful. “Water is not beholden to anything. It can cut through rock. It can vanish into thin air. With time, it can even destroy iron. You should not see it as a weakness.”
“Do you want me to promise?”
“Promises mean nothing to me.” Ōkami’s tone was soft. Severe. “They are words said to assuage any fool who wishes to believe.”
“Don’t draw a line. Unless you wish for me to cross it.”
“Well then, don’t cross it.”
Don't think about elephants.
“It’s the meaning I give it. Each breath exists for that one moment only. We live for that one moment only.”
“Don’t have expectations of me. Don’t look at me and think you should be seeing something else.”
For all those times a man had caused her to feel fear. For all those times she’d been made to think something was wrong with her. For all those times she’d been forced to believe a girl was somehow less than a boy.
“I’ve never been angry to have been born a woman. There have been times I’ve been angry at how the world treats us, but I see being a woman as a challenge I must fight. Like being born under a stormy sky. Some people are lucky enough to be born on a bright summer’s day. Maybe we were born under clouds. No wind. No rain. Just a mountain of clouds we must climb each morning so that we may see the sun.”
“The only power any man has over you is the power you give him.”