Flame in the Mist
By: Renee Ahdieh
My Rating: 3.5/5 Stars
Genre: Re-telling, Fantasy, YA
Page Count: 392
Synopsis: The only daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has always known she’d been raised for one purpose and one purpose only: to marry. Never mind her cunning, which rivals that of her twin brother, Kenshin, or her skills as an accomplished alchemist. Since Mariko was not born a boy, her fate was sealed the moment she drew her first breath.
So, at just seventeen years old, Mariko is sent to the imperial palace to meet her betrothed, a man she did not choose, for the very first time. But the journey is cut short when Mariko’s convoy is viciously attacked by the Black Clan, a dangerous group of bandits who’ve been hired to kill Mariko before she reaches the palace.
The lone survivor, Mariko narrowly escapes to the woods, where she plots her revenge. Dressed as a peasant boy, she sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan and hunt down those responsible for the target on her back. Once she’s within their ranks, though, Mariko finds for the first time she’s appreciated for her intellect and abilities. She even finds herself falling in love—a love that will force her to question everything she’s ever known about her family, her purpose, and her deepest desires.
The first section of this review will be spoiler free.
I had been seeing this book on other blogs for quite some time and everyone seemed to have nothing but positive things to say about it, so I figured I should hop on the bandwagon. I really loved The Wrath and The Dawn (another on elf her books) so I knew there was a good chance I would like this one too. It started out slow, but around halfway through I found that I just couldn’t put it down! It definitely feels like a Mulan re-telling, and I’m not sure if that was intentional but I loved it. I found Mariko to be a very dynamic character and I liked how we got different POVs mixed in to round out the story.
The reason that the rating is only a 3.5 is because, like I said earlier the story took a while to really pick up. I found myself easily putting the book down and walking away which isn’t a good sign. However, if you stick with it to the middle it really finds its stride. The world building also felt a little uneven throughout the story, there were some large gaps that left me feeling a little confused about the society they live in. The backdrop of Feudal Japan creates a really interesting setting, it is a time period I don’t personally know a lot about so it was fun to read a story that really explored it. I am excited to see how the sequel plays out since this book ended on somewhat of a cliffhanger. I am always a little wary of duologies because sometimes they just don’t feel like enough, or they feel like one book too many. But Renee Ahdieh is a duology pro, her books somehow have just the right amount of story and intrigue that is the perfect fit for a two book series.
If you are a fan of magic, hidden identities, mystery, and fantasy re-tellings this is the book for you. It mixes that fairytale quality with a darker story and dynamic characters.
The biggest mystery throughout the book was who tried (and failed) to kill Mariko. We still don’t know who it was a the end of book one, but we know it wasn’t the black clan. Mariko infiltrates them dressed as a boy, and as she comes to know them (even falling for Okami) she realizes it wasn’t them. My theory is that it was either her father or one of the princes, maybe even the one she was betrothed to. I doubt her brother was involved because he seems to genuinely care about her, even if his priorities are a little messed up. Also can we talk about the fact that Ranmaru (leader of the black clan) knew she was a girl the whole time! I want to know his POV, like why did he keep it a secret, and also can his supernatural powers please be explained, how does he turn into a smoke wolf???
Have you read this book? let me know your thoughts in the comments!