My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
I received an ARC/e-galley of this book through Penguin’s First to Read program – although that did not influence my opinion of the book or the review provided. This book will be released May 16th, 2017 – so go pick it up, seriously!
Although the story is vastly different from the Wrath and the Dawn, Renée Ahdieh’s poetic style of writing comes across just as beautifully in this novel as her previous series. The gorgeous writing is my favourite aspect of the book, followed very closely by the plot, characters, and the world.
I have always been a huge admirer of the Japanese culture and love seeing the (fictional) historical representation of feudal Japan. There aren’t a lot of examples of this that I have personally read and truly fallen in love with. This is by far my favorite iteration of that time and I adore the story that accompanies that world.
Mariko is to be wed to one of the Emperor’s sons, an act that would bring her family honour and one that she does not wish to partake in. Alas, she is a girl and thus does not get a choice in her future. Halfway to her destination, her litter is attacked and the entire envoy is killed – except Mariko.
This attempt on her life changes everything and leads her on a journey to discover who put a price on her life, to find answers and ensure her family’s honour. Mariko knows that a girl cannot accomplish this on her own and takes drastic measures. Her first act is to cut her hair and it gave me such Mulan vibes. It immediately made me so much more excited to read this book, especially if she channeled my favorite Disney heroine (and spoiler alert, she does).
Mariko is a great female character to look up to because no matter what situation she finds herself and she will persist, fight against the odds, learn whatever she can, and never let anyone keep her down. She is such a strong character and it is so empowering to see that in the novel, especially when you don’t see that type of character generally in this world.
She masquerades as a peasant boy and is able to fool everyone. I almost immediately fall in love with Mariko as she is curious, intelligent doesn’t always know when to stop talking. She is a feisty, strong female character who is not used to being on her own but is intelligent enough to always want to learn and succeed despite the hurdles. We get to know Mariko best and see her grow over the course of the novel.
Her twin brother Kenshin is the brawn to Mariko’s brains. He is much more comfortable on a horse or with a weapon in his hand than in conversation with nobles. It is his actions that truly lead her down the path and make her question everything she’s ever believed in. Which is so difficult to do because you want to believe in the best of your family until wonder if that’s not true, can shake your entire foundation. It’s a really authentic feeling in the book and you wonder just as Mariko wonders – could it be true?
Ranmaru and Okami are members of the Black Clan, a band of notorious thieves who may be more than they appear. The two men are like yin and yang, the counterbalances of one another. Ranmaru is an optimist, more talkative and humorous than Okami, who is more serious and hides himself behind a mask.
Renée Ahdieh’s beautiful writing extends to the world at large, painting vibrant pictures of cities like Inaka and foreboding ones of the forest where the Black Clan make their home. You are transported into the world with the characters and don’t want to leave, even if the situations you’re faced with aren’t always pleasant.
I fell in love with the story and the characters almost immediately. Flame in the Mist is a wonderful story and I cannot wait to read the next in the series. The book has a satisfying conclusion while also leading you to excitedly anticipate what will happen in the subsequent books. Highly recommended to young adult/teen readers who have enjoyed Renée Ahdieh’s previous novels, strong female leads, and beautifully written stories.