Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh
Published by Hodder & Stoughton
Released 18th May 2017
Thank you to the publisher for sending me this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Mariko has always known that being a woman means she’s not in control of her own fate. But Mariko is the daughter of a prominent samurai and a cunning alchemist in her own right, and she refuses to be ignored. When she is ambushed by a group of bandits known as the Black Clan enroute to a political marriage to Minamoto Raiden – the emperor’s son – Mariko realises she has two choices: she can wait to be rescued… or she can take matters into her own hands, hunt down the clan and find the person who wants her dead.
Disguising herself as a peasant boy, Mariko infiltrates the Black Clan’s hideout and befriends their leader, the rebel ronin Ranmaru, and his second-in-command, Okami. Ranmaru and Okami warm to Mariko, impressed by her intellect and ingenuity. But as Mariko gets closer to the Black Clan, she uncovers a dark history of secrets that will force her to question everything she’s ever known.
I love YA that is packed with action and set in an interesting, unique world. So, when I found about Flame in the Mist I knew I had to read it. The fact that it’s set in Japan, also sealed the deal for me. I love Japanese culture and everything to do with Japan so I couldn’t wait to read this.
Flame in the Mist is also, you guessed it, a Mulan retelling..apart from the fact it is set in Japan and not China and Mariko doesn’t go to battle. As a lover of Mulan and her feminist attitudes this also drew me into reading the novel.
Mariko is on her way to her arranged marriage to the emperors son, when her caravan is attacked by a group called the Black Clan. Mariko barely escapes and in the aftermath of the attack seeks revenge of those who tried to kill her. Disguising herself as a boy Mariko gains access to the Black Clan’s camp. The members soon start warming to her and as she gets closer to the clan she starts to uncover secrets that starts to force her to question everything she has known.
I’ll admit that it did take me a while to get into the story the first few chapters didn’t necessarily bore me but I found it hard to get to grips with the characters and their world. You are automatically take into Mariko’s journey to her arranged marriage with no backstory, which for some would be fine but I would have like a bit more information about the marriage itself. Despite this, I feel that it may have ruined the whole atmosphere of the story if this had happened. However, as I got further into the story I found myself enjoying where it was leading.
One problem I found throughout the book was the use of many Japanese terms which many, I feel would not understand. There is a glossary of the words and their meanings at the back of the book but would people look at that before reading? Or even remember the meanings after a while of reading? I understand that as it’s set in Japan and involves Japanese culture that these words would crop up but maybe have the meanings spread throughout.
The use of Japanese history and mythology throughout the book really stood out, although not being Japanese I wasn’t sure of how accurate they were. It still helped with the world-building and immersed me into the harsh world of Feudal Japan. It’s made me want to research into the Japanese culture more and that can only be a good thing.
Mariko I found was a strong female character but she didn’t stand out to me like other strong females in other YA novels. Throughout the story we keep being told how smart she is but it was never shown. Show don’t tell. However, I did like how she wanted to prove her feminine worth and show that she could survive on her own and make her own decisions. Her romantic intentions with a certain character were rather believable although it was rather predictable.
I loved finding out about the other characters featured especially Okami, Ranmaru and Kenshin. Okami, at first seemed like a bully almost and I didn’t want to like him. Alas, further into the story my feelings for him grew and I found myself loving him. I just think he was misunderstood. I can’t wait to find out more about him in the sequel.
Overall Flame in the Mist was a pretty enjoyable read. Yes, there were a few points that could have been explained more or freshened up but on the whole I love the plot, the world and the Japanese culture behind it. I will certainly be reading the sequel.
Renee Ahdieh lives in North Carolina with her husband Victor and their dog Mushu. In her spare time, she likes to cook, mess with makeup, and wreak havoc on the lives of her characters.