Just finished reading the Scarlet Kiomono by Christina Courtenay. This is CC’s second book her debut novel being Trade Winds which you can read all about here!
The Scarlet Kimono is a story about a young girl called Hannah who, in order to escape an arranged marriage which she is dreading runs away from home and becomes a stowaway on a boat bound for trade with Japan. Hannah’s arrival has been foretold by a seer to his warlord, Taro, and as a result Taro is taking a keen interest in Hannah and has decided to abduct her so he can study her at leisure. I guess that all sounds a bit sinister but it doesn’t read as such. This is basically a blend of romance and history with a bit of travel and adventure thrown in and a very light and easy to read novel
Being abducted is not to be Hannah’s biggest trial however. She is hated by Taro’s scheming sister-in-law, Reiko, who it seems will go to any length to get rid of Hannah and the threat she poses to her own plans to marry the warlord. However, Reiko hasn’t taken into account the attraction that Taro and Hannah will instantly feel for each other and the lengths he will go to in order to protect her.
This is a nice read although on balance I think I probably preferred Trade Winds. I did enjoy the Japanese setting however and the detail about the clothes, places, food and customs. CC has added a lot of detail which really helps to evoke a picture of the place. On top of that we have the love story unfolding between Hannah and Taro and the sense of tension surrounding Reiko and her attempts to remove Hannah from the picture.
On the whole I thought this was a nice and easy going read, definitely a good read for a holiday, however, if you’re looking for something with a great deal of historical detail you may be disappointed. I think that is probably where my major criticism would be found – I think you would be hard placed to give the year in which this book was placed if you hadn’t been given this information. And, that’s not to say that I wanted to read a deeply historical novel but just that the behaviour and language didn’t feel right, it was too modern I thought. Also, Hannah seemed to have very few restrictions at all and seemed to have a relatively easy time of things – even when she was abducted her captors were polite to her. And, everything seemed to come so easy for her – she picked up the Japanese language in the bat of an eye, then started to learn the writing, she’s an artist and can produce charcoal caricatures with ease and on top of this and in spite of it being totally overlooked by her family and everyone else back home, she seems to have morphed into a beautiful creature, long limbs, long eyelashes, long thick tresses of naturally curly fiery red hair, etc, etc. not to mention brave, courageous and kind to children.
So, I did like this book, but I didn’t love it. I think the romance wasn’t passionate enough, the history wasn’t quite historical enough and even the baddie wasn’t evil enough. Too much moderation for my taste although I have no doubt it will appeal to a lot of people as it’s a good story and nicely written. If I was going to give an example of what I thought was the perfect historical romance I would have to say The Bronze Horseman, Philipa Gregory’s historical novels are also really entertaining and Memoirs of a Geisha is an excellent glimpse into the culture of Japan.
Last Sacrifice is the 6th and final installment in the Vampire Academy series of books (although there is to be a ‘spin off’ series based on some of the other characters).
I’ve really enjoyed this series of books – although I don’t particularly recommend that they be read on their own – I think that the whole series needs to be read to give a proper understanding of the lifestyle, history and characters involved. I think RM has down a wonderful job of creating this whole other vampire world that sits secretly alongside our own, a world with a fully developed background, superstitions and myths.
I also enjoyed watching the change in Rose throughout the series. Rose is a great character. She’s tough and can stand up for herself but she’s also devoted to her friends and not afraid to get into any number of situations to help others. She’s not perfect of course and makes a lot of mistakes, some which she deeply regrets, but with the benefit of hindsight I guess it would be a perfect world (or a boring book with very little story involved!).
Anyway, this book starts with Rose in prison, accused of the murder of the Queen (for which the punishment is the death penalty). Dimitri is also being kept under lock and key as not everyone is convinced that he truly is a dhampir again or think he may be a Strigoi spy. Rose’s friends, assisted by Dimitri break Rose out of Jail and she becomes a fugitive assisted by Sydney (the plan being to keep her safely in hiding). Meanwhile, Lissa remains at court and tries to uncover who the real killer is. Of course Rose has no such intentions of playing a sleepy role and embarks on her own search for Lissa’s secret sibling. And so two stories begin to unfold.
I did enjoy this book although not as much as I hoped. Whilst I think that RM has tried to give everyone a happy ending this is never going to be easy – and particularly where a love triangle has been written into the plot. As far as I’m concerned I never had any doubt about who Rose would (or should) end up with but obviously in this case there’s always somebody who is going to be unhappy. That being said there were a few surprises along the route and I never guessed the actual murderer or the final outcome between Rose and Lissa. I guess what I found a little disappointing was the interaction between Dimitri and Rose which wasn’t as gripping as in the previous books and the ending felt a little bit rushed (even though this isn’t a small book). In the last book Dimitri was absolutely adamant that he didn’t want to be near Rose or to speak to her and she was understandably heartbroken and yet here he is at the start of book no.6 helping her to escape from prison and joining her on her road trip/hideout/adventure. Also, it seemed rather obvious that Dimitri’s feelings for Rose had changed and yet I didn’t really have any real understanding or sense of why that was – or more to the point how quickly he’d had a turn around. I think that I might have enjoyed a little less time spent in Lissa’s ‘head’ and a bit more time sorting out some queries between Rose and Dimitri. Although I thought the Lissa element was enjoyable in this book and at last give Lissa a chance to do something for Rose.
This probably sounds more critical than I intended. I think this has been a really excellent series, I think Rose is a great character and I would definitely recommend reading them.