Title: Flame In The Mist
Author: Renée Ahdieh
Publisher: Hodder and Stoughton
Publication Date: May 18th 2017
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.
Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with an advance reading copy in exchange for an honest review!
“If I am marching to my death, then I will march to it as a girl. Without fear.”
Flame In The Mist was one of my most anticipated reads of this year. Ever since I finished The Wrath And The Dawn duology, including all the novellas, whatever this author wrote next was always going to be placed at the top of my TBR. And even though I just wasn’t as interested or invested in the plot and the characters this time, for the most part it wasn’t a complete let down.
At the beginning of the novel, we are immediately thrown into an execution, and this is quickly followed by the attack on Mariko’s convoy in an attempt to kill her. Thus, the book begins with action, and Renée’s writing was just as beautiful and lyrical as I remembered it. The events unfolded quickly and the shift in POVs between Mariko and her brother Kenshin was something I really enjoyed because protective older siblings are my absolute weakness. That being said, I quickly became disinterested for the rest of the story because the pacing was just slow. Not to mention, we were introduced to the POV of several other characters who I just didn’t care about.
The romance felt completely off, even though it was a hate-to-love relationship which I adore more that anything else. But still, Ōkami was a total sweetheart and an unapologetic feminist and it just made me so happy. It did take a while for me to warm up to him and I still can’t get over this one freaking scene.
“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.”
The book ends on a cliff-hanger and leaves so many questions still unanswered which is frustrating, but overall it’s one I’d definitely recommend if you enjoy character-driven stories. I loved the feudal Japanese setting and getting to learn about the culture, and the comradery of the Black Clan. Not to mention, female empowerment! Unfortunately the plot wasn’t as captivating as the author’s writing but, nevertheless, I am here for the sequel.
“To me, you are magic.”