Flame in the Mist (Flame in the Mist #1) Renée Ahdieh (2017)
YA Fiction | Historical Fantasy
“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.”
pooled ink Review:
The first thing I’ll say is that this book did not disappoint.
There was a lot of hype over this book as well as many comparisons to Mulan, both of which had me excited but skeptical. I would absolutely love a book as thrilling and epic as Mulan (one of my all-time favorite Disney movies) but how often do we get what we want? Well, fortunately this is one of those times (at least for me)! I’d read a few reviews by those of you who were lucky enough to receive an ARC and you weren’t kidding when you said how good it was.
Mariko was a strong protagonist whom was easy to support and indeed held similarities to the famous Mulan. Dressed as a boy and learning how to survive and fight whilst maintaining her disguise was exciting and well-done. It was pretty cool to watch how she contributes to the camp with her inventive ideas including weaponry and chemistry. I also really love how the story would occasionally shift POVs to her brother Kenshin as it really shows just how much Mariko grows and changes from the sweet, if odd, young sister he grew up with and who we meet at the opening of the story.
A clever and inventive Asian girl disguised as a boy who is trained to survive and fight – that’s pretty much where the Mulan comparisons end. As much as I love Mulan, I really appreciate how this book stands completely on its own, as does its protagonist, Mariko. There are similarities to be sure, but truly they are two equally epic but distinctly different stories.
There is a bit of romance in this book but it truly takes a backseat to the action, which I really appreciate. That’s something I loved about the Disney Mulan movie, how it focused on Mulan, a woman proving she could do anything a man can and choosing to do so to save her father. Anyway, I felt that the romance in this book was perfect. It was just the right amount for this story and it was handled very well. I loved it.
All of the characters are very well crafted actually. I felt that they each were distinct and captivating in their own right, even those with smaller roles. The occasional third POV in this book takes you to the Emperor and you’ll start to see the sinister games the Emperor’s Royal Consort and the Empress are playing behind his back. Their rivalry is expected, the lengths to which they’ll go are unsurprising, albeit chilling, and all that’s left to know is who will win? Kanako, Genmai, or the Black Clan?
A large contributor to the story character-wise as well as plot-wise is the Black Clan. They really bring in a darker challenge for Mariko and they remain constantly evolving particularly as they appear to be villains to some and heroes to others. Mariko bides her time and hides her secret but the Black Clan have an agenda and soon enough Mariko finds herself well embedded in those plans whether she likes them or not.
So I wasn’t honestly surprised by much (except certain last minute revealed abilities and identities), but this still was a very good read. When you read such a ridiculous amount of books you tend to pick up on patterns and clues much easier, but if the book is well-written and fantastic then that really doesn’t affect the story or the reading experience. I was easily able to sink into the story and live in the moment with Mariko and her tumultuous journey.
You really get a good taste of history and culture in this book, which I also really loved about it. It simply added a richness and depth to the world Ahdieh has crafted in this book.
There is also a fantasy element, but like the romance it is important while not the focus. Jukai Forest holds many secrets and mystical elements. There are also the intriguing abilities of Okami and Kanako that are displayed more than once although their origins remain cloaked in mystery.
Gosh, I really liked this book!
Flame in the Mist has tinges of magic, pulses of romance, huffs of action, a current of danger, and a breath of life. Absolutely riveting, the characters and the story itself come to life turning each page faster than the last as the stakes climb higher and the secrets grow heavier. Many hidden plots dance throughout, pulling strings where none can see, only to leave you wide-eyed and yearning for the truth after turning the final page.
Purchase here: Flame in the Mist
Similar recommended books: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir, Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas, The Young Elites by Marie Lu, The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chockshi, Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, These Vicious Masks by Tarun Shanker & Kelly Zekas, Nora & Kettle by Lauren Nicolle Taylor
Meet Renée Ahdieh!
Renée Ahdieh is the author of the #1 New York Times bestselling The Wrath and the Dawn and The Rose and the Dagger. In her spare time, she likes to dance salsa and collect shoes. She is passionate about all kinds of curry, rescue dogs, and college basketball. The first few years of her life were spent in South Korea; consequently, Reneé enjoys having her head in the clouds. She lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, with her husband and their tiny overlord of a dog.