Review ‘Flame in the mist’

Title: Flame in the Mist
Author: Renée Ahdieh
Series: Flame in the mist #1
Genres: Fantasy, Historical, YA,  Romance, High Fantasy, Retellings
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The daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has long known her place—she may be an accomplished alchemist, whose cunning rivals that of her brother Kenshin, but because she is not a boy, her future has always been out of her hands. At just seventeen years old, Mariko is promised to Minamoto Raiden, the son of the emperor’s favorite consort—a political marriage that will elevate her family’s standing. But en route to the imperial city of Inako, Mariko narrowly escapes a bloody ambush by a dangerous gang of bandits known as the Black Clan, who she learns has been hired to kill her before she reaches the palace.

Dressed as a peasant boy, Mariko sets out to infiltrate the ranks of the Black Clan, determined to track down the person responsible for the target on her back. But she’s quickly captured and taken to the Black Clan’s secret hideout, where she meets their leader, the rebel ronin Takeda Ranmaru, and his second-in-command, his best friend Okami. Still believing her to be a boy, Ranmaru and Okami eventually warm to Mariko, impressed by her intellect and ingenuity. As Mariko gets closer to the Black Clan, she uncovers a dark history of secrets, of betrayal and murder, which will force her to question everything she’s ever known.

My Thoughts

I received a copy of this book in exchange of an honest review.

After reading the best retelling of the Arabian nights in the form of Reneé Ahdieh’s The Wrath and the Dawn I was rightly excited for anything the author would publish, so this book too. So when I stumbled upon this story I was ecstatic especially since its blurb as something loosely inspired by the story of Mulan. I love Mulan and not just the Disney version but original Chinese story as well. Not to mention the artwork of the cover is also something that grabbed my attention. It’s beautiful and tells a lot about the story itself.

I struggled with the beginning of the book, to get into it a bit. Especially with the prologue since the wording of it resembles the classic books a little, it’s a bit heavy. Also I needed time to get used to the usage of English and Japanese words at the same time. I think the fact that I didn’t have time so I read like a chapter a day also played a hand in my hardship with immersing myself into the world of Mariko but even this didn’t stopped me loving the book to pieces. The thing tough that I think the expecting the retelling of Mulan is a mistake (was a mistake on my part too) because apart from the fact that both stories takes place in an Asian setting and the girl disguises herself as a boy had nothing to do with each other. But it is still a phenomenal tale.

The writing style is similar to The Wrath and the Dawn as it would be expected since it’s written by the same author but I would say it’s a bit heavier and more reserved. This is the thing that prompted me to only give Flame in the mist only four stars.  For example there are a lot of beautiful, richly worded descriptions of places but they are overly poetic and too long. In my opinion they were overly poetic and distracting, took away the attention from the plot. Like with the Emperor chapter, which goes on over pages and pages describing the palace but the meaningful, important stuff in it, the actual events are take up only half a page, a page at most.

The plot is really complex and intriguing; there is something new at every corner, subtle but surprising twist and secrets. The storyline follows a marvelous arc while the characters develop quite a lot. It is told mainly in the point of view of Mariko, but here and there we encounter a couple of chapters from different characters, too. Like Okami, Kenshin or the Emperor. They put an extra meaning to the events and help put together the things Mariko doesn’t see. The plot also has a political element too it, if I may say the whole book is strongly motivated by it. Unfortunately it’s not utilized to the fullest extent, which is a shame but also an opportunity for the next book. There is a slight romantic element to the plot too but nothing overwhelming too distracting. It creates a tension between the characters which helps heating up the events.

THE FOLLOWNG THINGS MAY CONTAIN SOME MINOR SPOILERS. BE ADVISED.

Character wise I had my doubts about Mariko in the very beginning, but as the story progressed she changed, grew and my opinion about her became better and better. She is a thinker, an inventor which is rare for a woman in her time. She is really clever and hates her fate but accepted it, yet rebels in the small ways. She would like to break out of the role her parents envisioned for her but doesn’t know how.  She is also a skeptic, a realist, the mystical things doesn’t really register for her. Unfortunately her noble upbringing shows in her mannerism, in her way of thinking. She starts out as a judgmental, narrow minded (in social situations), she proud and thinks she is smarter than everyone else. Also she is a bit insecure about her inventions. However during her adventure she became a strong and confidant woman, who finally sees things she didn’t before.

There are a lot of other characters in the story, all with various background but just a few of them got a deeper, more detailed description, personality. Don’t get me wrong it’s obvious that all of them have an interesting past but they are also shrouded in mystery and secrets. My personal favorite is Okami, I kind of have a thing the brooding, mysterious characters and he is the epitome of that. He has a lot of secrets and he is powerful.  He preaches almost the opposite of what Mariko believes in, in his opinion people are determined by their actions and that is what important and not their thoughts. He is kind of the opposite of Mariko. He is kind of dark and prickly but has a playful side too.
Then there is Kenshi, Mariko brother, the dutiful and honorable warrior. I think he was a bit presumptuous and I kind of predicted how his role going to play out. He is the typical goody-two-shoes person.

I loved this story and even if it’s not the fast paced book with a warrior woman I expected it’s still fantastic. It’ ended on a tense note so I can’t wait for the next installment. Things just starting to heat up and a lot of secrets are still at play

 

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