Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton (18th May 2017)
Series: Flame in the Mist #1
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.
I’d like to thank Pansing for sending me an ARC of Flame in the Mist for review.
When I first found out about Renee Ahdieh writing another book, my initial reaction can be perfectly summed up by this gif.
Here’s what you need to know about the first book of Renee Ahdieh’s new series. Flame in the Mist follows the story of Mariko, a daughter of a samurai who is betrothed to the second son of the emperor, Raiden. During her journey to the imperial city, Inako, her convoy is attacked by the vicious Black Clan. Determined to find out why she was a target of the Black Clan, Mariko disguises herself as a young peasant boy and play a dangerous game of deception.
“The only power any man has over you is the power you give him.”
Though I did enjoy Flame in the Mist immensely, I did struggle to get into the book because of its slow pace at the beginning. However, once you get past the first half, you are in for a treat because it’s when the plot unfolds and you are on the edge of your seat, nervous about what is going to happen. The underlying plot and the mystery behind those who were responsible for intercepting Mariko’s journey to meet her betrothed kept the story engaging and the plot revelation and twist was pretty good and it did make me want to find out more in the sequel.
“She would not die a coward. Mariko was the daughter of a samurai. The sister of the Dragon of Kai. But more than that, she still held power over her decisions. For at least this one last day. She would face her enemy. And die with honor.”
Based loosely on my favourite Disney movie, Mulan, Renee Ahdieh’s Flame in the Mist does offer the readers a chance to explore feudal Japan through the eyes of a fearless heroine who has an admirable drive to discover the truth behind her attack and question everything that she has known her whole life.
There’s the drama, the political intrigue, some sexiness involved in a hot spring, betrayal and oopsh! I think I should stop here and let you read it for yourself!
“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.”
I liked Mariko as a character because she reminded me so much of Mulan, with her sharp wit and intellect and how she managed to play things to her strength and ensnare information from everyone around her with her clever plotting.
“There is such strength in being a woman. But it is a strength you must choose for yourself. No one can choose it for you. We can bend the wind to our ear if we would only try.”
I liked the message that Flame in the Mist conveyed too, it had tinges of feminism and as a male reader, I felt like I could connect with her, especially when it came to privileges and the inequality between men and women. This excerpt from the book really moved me.
“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.”
I had a thrill reading about the members of the Black Clan, though admittedly, I struggled with keeping up with their names because they had their very own nicknames but I ended up crushing on them so much, especially Ōkami, who’s the second-in-command. I have a confession: I never liked guys with topknots or manbuns but after reading Flame in the Mist, girl. I am so into this.
Flame in the Mist introduces a cast of unforgettable characters that have their own personal motives and I thought that really complemented the story of Mariko’s journey of uncovering the sinister truth.
“Sometimes we must fall forward to keep moving. Remain motionless—remain unyielding—and you are as good as dead.
Death follows indecision, like a twisted shadow. Fall forward. Keep moving. Even if you must pick yourself up first.”
The thing about Renee Ahdieh is that, she’s such an incredibly masterful writer and she has a flair for writing beautiful prose—which was why I fell in love with her Wrath and the Dawn duology. Every word written by her needs to be savoured and in Flame in the Mist, it brought out another side of her ability to weave stories.
Flame in the Mist is an empowering story about a young lady who defies all odds to bend things to go her way and I was rooting for Mariko throughout the entire book. I was thoroughly impressed by how Renee Ahdieh managed to capture the essence of Japanese culture and Flame in the Mist transported me back in time. A time where the emperor had shoguns and daimyos. A time where political unrest was present but no one dared to challenge the feudal system, lest suffering the wrath of the emperor.
Dark, delicious, haunting and so satisfying, Flame in the Mist captured my attention from the very first line and I couldn’t stop reading it once I started on it. And that ending! Gah, you’ll be crying for Book 2 after an ending like that.