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.
FLAME IN THE MIST by Renee Ahdieh is her new fantasy series reminiscent of Mulan set in a fantasy feudal Japan. Mariko is not the type of girl to get married, but sadly that is her only purpose on this earth. Her parents need to solidify a political alliance with another prominent family. On her way to meet her new husband to be, her caravan gets ambushed and she is the only one to make it out alive. She knew she was the target. Now disguised as a boy she infiltrates the same assassins clan with sights set on revenge.
FLAME IN THE MIST was such a wonderful journey with a few snags on the way. First off Ahdieh’s writing style is another league of its own. She has a way of describing things that really make the visuals jump off the page. Especially when it comes to food descriptions. My god. I should have known after reading her first two books that I shouldn’t go into one of her books hungry. The way she describes food from the taste to the aesthetics and smells just makes your stomach grumble with desire.
Secondly, the setting. I love reading books set in feudal Japan. There is a series I’ve read in the past about a detective that is set in feudal Japan and this was very reminiscent to me. Some people are tiffed that it’s loosely based on Mulan, but set in Japan. Ahdieh took creative license to change things up a bit and I think she pulled it off magically. You can tell proper research was done when it came to the clothing, the architecture, and so on.
Lastly, the characters were a highlight for me. I loved the side characters way more than Mariko herself, but I will get to that in a moment. I loved Kenshin, her brother a lot. He was brave, smart, and his loyal to his sister. I know there is more to his character and I can’t wait to have him explored a bit more. Okami was also a highlight for me. He falls into one of my favorite tropes, the brooding bad boy. Enough said.
Now we get into the snags I mentioned earlier. One of them being Mariko, our MC. I had a few issues with her. It keeps getting mentioned how intelligent she is, but sadly it was too far between. If you’re going to mention a major quality of a character, A LOT, then I expect to see instances of that said quality. Finally, I found some issues with the magic system. I didn’t feel like there was much of an explanation for it. It was pretty random and not well thought out in my opinion. I hope it gets explored more in the sequel.
Jesse is a 20 something college student/server and dwells in Toronto, Canada. He enjoys reading about fantastical worlds, listening to KPOP, and being a couch potato.
What are your thoughts? Did you like reading this one? What’s one of your favorite fantasies this year? Let me know in the comments below!