Summary: When Mariko is ambushed by a group of bandits known as the Black Clan enroute to a political marriage to 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 Ranmaru, and his second-in-command, Okami. 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 received a free eARC of this book from the publishers in exchange for an honest review!
I’ve heard lots about Renee Ahdieh’s The Wrath and the Dawn series so I had high expectations for this novel! Flame in the Mist is essentially a Mulan retelling but definitely holds it’s own as a unique and creative story. Although this book wasn’t perfect, it was a lot of fun to read and I’d recommend it to anyone who’s a fan of Japanese culture and a capable and kick-ass heroine.
This book is set in Japan and follows Mariko, daughter of a famous samurai who’s being pushed into a political marriage. However, she’s attacked whilst traveling to see her soon-to-be husband. Surviving this attack, Mariko sets out to find out why the evil, infamous Black Clan tried to kill her by disguising herself as a boy and infiltrating their camp. The plot itself started slow, and it took me a while to get into, but in the second half of this book the action picked up and I found myself more invested in the events that occurred. The fight scenes in this book were intense and I especially enjoyed the parts of this novel which highlighted the closeness between the members of the Black Clan.
There was some romance later on in this story between Mariko and a member of the Black Clan and it was clear from the beginning that it was going to happen. And although it was predictable, it was really cute to read about and I loved how easy it became for the two characters to be around each other.
Mariko is a headstrong character and, despite living a sheltered life, she’s able to blend in with the Black Clan well. She’s resourceful and more than capable of protecting herself even when surrounded by so much danger. I loved Mariko’s confidence, how she wasn’t afraid to stand up for herself, even with being a female in a very male dominated society. Her relationship with her brother, Kenshin, was well-written as well. The two characters were different yet they knew each other well. I loved the faith they had in each other and I would’ve loved to have seen more interactions between the two of them.
“Be as swift as the wind. As silent as the forest. As fierce as the fire. As unshakable as the mountain. And you can do anything…”
The members of the Black Clan were also intriguing and I found myself feeling really invested in all of them. However, it would’ve been great to explore their motives and how their reputation came about because it wasn’t obvious to me why they were perceived as being so dangerous.
I enjoyed Renee Ahdieh’s writing for the most part, especially when it came to portraying locations and characters and making the world come to life. However the descriptive style didn’t feel appropriate in the fast-paced moments, it had the effect of slowing the scenes down and dragging them out when all I wanted to know was what happened next (but that could’ve just been me being impatient). I felt the heavy description could’ve been condensed to help the story flow more smoothly.
Another small issue, is that the magic system in this book was unclear, it appeared at one point and then wasn’t really mentioned again and I’m not sure it was even all that necessary to the plot. But the ending of this book left me completely on edge and wanting more! The conclusion felt too soon and I can’t believe I’m going to have to wait a year to find out how the rest of the story unfolds.
This book did have a few issues, but most of them were minor to me and I feel like they’re things that will be expanded on in the second book, so it didn’t subtract from my overall enjoyment. The characters and setting in this book won me over from the start and I’m really glad I had the chance to read it!