Mariko knew her purpose as the daughter of a prominent Samurai was to be pawn in political maneuvering by being given as a bride to a family of higher standing. She is being delivered to her fiancé, the second son of the Emperor, when her caravan is attacked. Hidden by the dead body of her servant, she is the only survivor of the slaughter that was ordered to kill her. Who wants her dead and why? Mariko believes it is the Black Clan that was hired to do the deed. For once she decides to take control of her future and rather than make her way home, she disguises herself as a boy and journeys deep into the forest to find the Black Clan. She is impressed with the leader, Ranmaru, who is deeply respected by his loyal outlaws. She thinks very little of Okami, until she sees his fighting prowess. Ranmaru accepts her into the group and orders her training. In truth, the Black Clan is a Japanese Robin Hood type outfit. Despite their honor and overall compassionate behavior, Mariko persists in believing the Black Clan attacked her caravan. Meanwhile, Mariko’s fierce twin brother, Samurai Kenshin is tracking her and does not believe she was killed. Lots of inward thinking leads her to revelation that the Black Clan acts more like a family than her true family.
While formulaic – the pampered noble who must quickly adapt; forbidden love; Robin Hood; revenge; family honor, political manipulation – the story works. The writing is descriptive so that the feel of the forest is ever present and the characters are clearly drawn. However, one thing that is bothering me is that the conversations between Okami and Mariko when she was disguised as a boy, were rather flirtatious when Mariko tried to converse as a man. I tended to lose track of names and the abundant insertion of Japanese words is a bit annoying but I happily read it all and am eager to go back and read her other books. Great for readers eager for adventure, bloodshed and political maneuvering set in feudal Japan – oh yes, a bit of romance too.
eGalley review Publication date 5.16.17