Book Review: Rhoda by Poppy Kuroki

I like novellas. I rarely read novellas because I go through full length books so quickly that I’m usually just jumping from book to book without really reading smaller pieces in between. It seems counterintuitive, but just go with me on this one. When I got a chance to read Poppy Kuroki’s Rhoda, I was thrilled, because it is a novella and also by an author I really like. Instinct was definitely correct on this one.

1. Thoughts on the plot

This book deals with Rhoda’s backstory. We first meet Rhoda in Oath, the first in the Black Diamond series, as a member of a group of assassins, spies, and all the things that need doing in the shadow. This book explores with her backstory, following her transformation from a girl who wants to marry and have children to the assassin. I won’t give a huge amount away here, because this is such a concise plot and I don’t want to spoil it for anybody, but I can say that it was stunning to see the change in Rhoda’s dreams based on her experience, and on reality being so very far from expectation. I found it heart wrenching to see her hopes fall to pieces, but also conversely really enjoyed watching her make something of herself rather than just accept everything as it was.

2. Thoughts on the characters

It was definitely interesting to see Rhoda, as known in Oath, be something other than what we knew her to be. I think the transformation and character development on this worked out really well, keeping elements of her strength that we saw later throughout her earlier development. She is definitely a relatable character, though the horrible things that she had to endure were not easy to read. I really appreciate that the author went down those dark holes to explore how these things came to be, but also to allow Rhoda to rise above her circumstances.

3. Favourite part

As always with Poppy Kuroki’s books, I loved the world descriptions. They are done in such a way that the world is seen through the character’s eyes without providing information dumps. The character simply interacts with the world and this allows the reader to learn and see the world as it is seen by the characters. This book describes the differences in climate from Rhoda’s homeland to her new home, and I just loved how the simple addition of rain or lack of rain could be such a defining piece of the story.

4. Critique

My only real critique for this novella is that I wish it were a full-length book. While I love the smaller, concise story and the ability to portray such groundshaking events while not extending into unnecessary lengths, I think this would have been a good story to sink my teeth into. Either way, I really enjoyed it.

Overall, Rhoda is a fascinating exploration of a character who was somewhat mysterious in a larger piece. It explores the world and illustrates the complexities of the characters, of the world that makes up the Black Diamond series, and provides hints and stories for future events. An excellent novella!