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.
Author: Renée Ahdieh
Part of a Series: Yes. (Flame in the Mist #1)
Release Date: May 16, 2017
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
No. of Pages: 393 pages
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Retelling, Adventure, Action, Espionage
Massive thanks to my friends from Penguin Random House International for sending an ARC of this book my way. This did not, in any way, affect my overall opinion of the book and/or the story.
Albeit never having the chance to go to or study about Japan, I’ve always been fascinated about it: the geography, the cuisine, the culture… Everything about it amazes me, just as much (or probably a little less) as I’m allured with my homeland. And to get the chance to read a story about it’s Feudal times in Flame In The Mist made me feel just how blessed I am right now. Today, I’m more than excited to share with everyone my thoughts on Renée’s newest novel.
I was sold on this right after hearing through the grapevine that this is going to be a loose retelling of Mulan. I probably don’t mention it as often as I want to, but Fa Mulan is hands down my most favorite Disney Heroine. Everything about her screams strength, bravery, and feminism, and that’s just exactly what I got with Hattori Mariko. Even though I did find her character development to be rather slow, every single aspect of her was interesting, and her journey from being a curious princess whose only function is to be married off to another royal to becoming a courageous and independent warrior who’s not afraid to speak her mind is immensely impressive.
The setting to me was so vividly written, and stunningly well-developed. The places mentioned in the story might have been purely fictional, but everything about it (the culture, the food, the weapons, EVERYTHING) seemed real, showing a sign of just how awe-inspiring Renée is as an author. Also, the frequent use of Japanese words was a nice addition. It made the story all the more believable in terms of setting. And I believe there’s a glossary to be included on the finished copy which, in my opinion, adds greater value to the novel as a whole.
(Read carefully as I am not 100% sure if this next paragraph is a spoiler…)
Writing an action-packed story such as this wouldn’t honestly be complete without the subtle mix of romance, and even though it wasn’t evident until after the first half of the story, I adored the slow-burn romance between Mariko and Okami. Living amongst men, Mariko was definitely bound to fall in love with a member of The Black Clan, after being exposed to their ways, so I sort of expected this. And as for Okami? I like his backstory and I actually found it fitting that the author gave us the right amount of details, leaving an opportunity to further develop his character on the story’s next installment.
On a slightly negative note, however, the pacing is somewhat a 3/5 for me, and I feel like there were some details and/or chapters that felt unnecessary (to me, that is). There were times that made me just want to skim instead of reading in anticipation for what’s to happen next, since the story really is that gripping. And also, there were too much characters for me, and most of them were usually thrown together in one scene, which made me quite a bit confused as to who’s who, and who’s with who. I don’t maybe it’s just me.
“But as a whole, I believe Flame In The Mist is a great novel to start a fresh new series. It’s filled with luscious world building, and characters that you, whatever your gender or race could be, could easily feel and root for. Most importantly, this book talks of feminism and women empowerment. It’ll have you on the edge of your seat from the first chapter to the last, and it will definitely leave you breathless and wanting more. Don’t just take my word for it. Grab your copy, and READ THIS BOOK!”
Characters – 4.00
Plot – 4.50
Writing Style – 4.00
Pacing – 3.00
Ending – 4.50
TOTAL – 4★
“I believe the stars align so souls can find one another. Whether they are meant to be souls in love or souls in life remains to be seen.”
I’ve never been angry to have been born a woman. There have been times I’ve been angry at how the world treats us, but I see being a woman as a challenge I must fight. Like being born under a stormy sky. Some people are lucky enough to be born on a bright summer’s day. Maybe we were born under clouds. No wind. No rain. Just a mountain of clouds we must climb each morning so that we may see the sun.”
“You are first and foremost a person. A reckless, foolish person, but a person nonetheless. If I ever say you are not permitted to do something, rest assured that the last reason I would ever say so would be because you are a girl.”
“Be as swift as the wind. As silent as the forest. As fierce as the fire. As unshakable as the mountain. And you can do anything.”
About The Author:
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 a high-rise in South Korea; consequently, Renée enjoys having her head in the clouds. She lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, with her husband and their tiny overlord of a dog.