Title: Flame in the Mist
Author: Renèe Ahdieh
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Retelling
Pages: 393 Pages
Release Date: May 16, 2017
Rating: ★★★★ ½
“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.”
Goodreads 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.
My Review (SPOILER FREE!)
As a HUGE fan of Renèe Ahdieh’s writing, I went into this book with really big expectations. Thankfully, I wasn’t disappointed! First, the premise of this book is fantastic; Flame in the Mist is a Mulan retelling set in feudal Japan. The setting is so unique, I’ve truly never read anything involving Japanese mythology and I have to say, I loved it. Not only are the setting and premise unique, but this book had so many key elements that make up the best books!!! Betrayal, FEMINISM, just the right amount of romance, rivalry, and samurai, just to name a few!
Enough raving about the premise and unique elements, let’s move onto some major review points. I’ll start with the only problem I had with this book, which was that some parts in the beginning were hard to get into. For the first half of the novel, a lot goes on and it’s very interesting, but for some reason it’s hard to get into at times. It kept my interest throughout, but for some reason it was just difficult to get through; I believe it’s because I didn’t enjoy Mariko’s brother’s POV. I’ve read some other reviews and many others seem to agree. However, DO NOT LET THIS DETER YOU, because all the reviews I’ve read also agreed that this book is INCREDIBLE! The second half of this book more than makes up for this!
Okay, moving onto bigger things. I’d like to start with the pure and amazing feminism in this novel. Mariko, the main character, struggles throughout the book with the way woman are treated in society. However, she finds herself and gets very in-tune with her gender as the book proceeds. She also has the help of some very amazing male leads who are surprisingly hardcore feminists that accept and even embrace her gender. A quote I have seen all over the place is one of a woman in the novel, who when asked by Mariko if she does not like being born a woman, responds, “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.” Now, can we just take a moment…. this book is so empowering and just…. SO GOOD!!!
Next are the characters in this novel, all of which were so deep and interesting. Our lead character, Mariko, starts off having to find her way through the forest after not only being sold by her father into marriage, but then being attacked by a group sent to kill her on her way to this arranged husband. Mariko joins a group of “thieves” known as the Black Clan, planning on deceiving them for information and revenge, but ending up finally finding where she belongs. Mariko’s development from the beginning to end is absolutely astounding! She starts off very strategic and calm, yet weak and unsure. However, she grows into a strong, intelligent, selfless warrior! It’s just amazing. Then there are the members of the Black Clan, who are all snarky, strong, and mysterious. The one that stands out the most is the leader, known as The Wolf, or Okami. At the start of the novel he is just a lazy, snarky, unamused leader with mysterious powers. However, layer by layer is peeled back until you don’t even recognize him (in the best way!) Okami has so much depth, so many inner battles, and so many secrets. Overall, he’s genuinely very wise and interesting. This novel definitely gets a 10/10 in the character department!
Lastly, the plot. SO !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! GOOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! SERIOUSLY. This book is just so unbelievably interesting that you genuinely don’t know what to expect and after it’s over it leaves you thinking about it constantly. It’s paced so beautifully, with the world building carefully spun throughout the book. I’m having trouble doing this without fangirling too hard, but this book is just incredible! There are political schemes, family rivalries, and even with all of the seriousness there were still so many parts that were so funny and some that left me smiling like an idiot! Then the ending…. I won’t spoil, but I highly encourage everyone to read this book!
Thank you so much for reading my review! I really hope you enjoyed it and if you want to chat about this, feel free to comment! You can also find me on Instagram @theradiantreader
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