If you want to ask me how this fares as a Historical fantasy, then I can say it is a mess. Emperors didn’t have surnames in Japan, that was normal even till today. Although I enjoyed how it handled the geiko and maiko. But the entire country being named Wa; that is going to make me wonder, is this set in the Asuka period where Japan was still called that. I would be fine if it was some random name, and is more willing to forgive it. But Wa, for someone who spent a long time learning about Japanese history, that is just going to make me look like this:
The magic just felt inserted, and sometimes didn’t even feel there. I felt as though I was reading historical fiction, yet there were some strange subtle clues along with Okami displaying some strange abilities, and having one of the most literal names. I wanted Okami to even acknowledge that or to pass it over or hide it slightly. I’m only staring at it in skepticism and I would have preferred it to be more subtle, or to just explain it through his perspective. It would make so much more sense that way.
Mariko, is a livable main character. She is okay, overall. Had moments where she was intelligent and moments where I doubted them too. Moments where I feel as though she was being protected by them. Since the black clan, could have done so much more for them. And why did they even include her, explanations please.
But the side characters were so much more interesting. Ranmaru, Okami, they could have made a book together. Same with Kenshin and Amaya, they were an interesting and awesome pair. Yet, that ship would never sail. As for Yumi, she should have been given more page time, she should have been the main character. She could have been the one who told this tale. And I would have greatly preferred her to Mariko. She was awesome, and you know what I liked her. She was so much more complex than Mariko. I would have preferred to learn about her instead.
As for the two wives, those two could also make a whole book on their own. The Emperor is only a puppet amongst it, and the princes might just prove to be interesting. Again, if the author decided to make it about them, the book would have some very interesting political intrigue. Which would have been right up my alley. And the dynamics, would have been the one which I wanted to read about. Rather than Mariko, and even less about the Emperor.
These two women are powerful, are dangerous. And you know what, maybe Mariko should have met them first. And learn a thing or two about outsmarting and manipulation, she really needs it. Then, she would prove to be an interesting character.
As for the romance, I don’t like it. Simple as that. It should have been dragged out, they should not have slept together. Mariko would have better self control than that, since chastity was indeed prized. And most of all, she and Okami hated each other. I would have wanted them to work out their differences instead, not just all of a sudden, “hey, I just met you, and I hate you, but you’re a girl, so let’s sleep together.” And I would have thought that sleeping together wouldn’t be on his mind, or that he would hide things from her.
I would have wanted him to be more focused and her to be more wary and distrusting and you know smarter than that. Their romance just feels so insta love and needs time to develop, then I would buy it as real. Hate to love relationships, needs time to be overcome, needs time to be real. And minor attraction to Okami, fine, I can buy it. But full on romance with her sleeping with him, girl where did all that intelligence go?
The plot was okay, really okay. It didn’t really impact me that much, but the last part really made me interested. Really made me interested, in the awesome Empress who is a villain who should have been given more screen time.
Overall, I should never have bought this thing. Since anything with Japanese culture makes me go, “I need this now.” And getting sorely disappointed instead. But I still recommend this, since there are some things which the author does get right. And the side characters and villains were so much more interesting to read than bland Mariko.
Rating: 3 out of 5