Saturday, 29 July 2017

Review: Flame in the Mist by Renée Ahdieh

Flame in the Mist (Flame in the Mist) by Renée Ahdieh
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Released: 18th May 2017
My Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads
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.
(from Goodreads)

Flame in the Mist was a strong start to a new series, and I’m looking forward to seeing what Renée Ahdieh has in store for us next.

So this book has been marketed as a retelling of Mulan, but it really isn’t. I’m sure Mulan inspired it in a lot of ways but it’s not a retelling, and once you get over that, it’s much easier to appreciate the story for what it actually is.

Mariko, our main character, was on her way to marry the son of the Emperor (a deal forged by her father) when she and her company were attacked. Her loyal maidservant, Chiyo, was killed, and Mariko barely escaped with her life. Instead of returning home however, to be cleaned up and sent back out again to a loveless marriage, Mariko decided to take matters in her own hands to try and find out who attempted to murder her, and why. Mariko was a fairly likeable character, and I think she was pretty brave to dress up a boy and join a gang of thieves potentially responsible for the attack on her. In Mariko’s world, women had very little power, and for once, she wanted to do what she wanted without worrying about the consequences it would have. However, having lived an extremely privileged life, she was painfully naïve at times, and I was honestly surprised no-one in the Black Clan suspected her much earlier on. She may have been book smart and strategic, but she knew nothing about the lives regular people led, and it showed. However, she did face every challenge she met, and she didn’t back down, despite her lack of experience.

The other two main characters in this book were Ranmaru and Okami, and I really liked them both. Also, just to say, there’s no love triangle in this book! So yay! Anyway, Ranmaru was a ronin, a son of a disgraced samurai, and he and Okami had a deep connection that went back to their childhood. They were extremely loyal to each other, and while Ranmaru was the leader of the Black Clan, he trusted Okami implicitly and always valued his opinion. I really loved the dynamic between these two and enjoyed reading about them and learning about their backstories. Ranmaru was especially intriguing because I always got the feeling he was plotting something, but I never knew what. Okami was different in the sense that he didn’t want to lead, but was happy to follow orders. He also had an interesting power which we didn’t learn much about, but which I hope will be explored in the next book. He was responsible for Mariko once she joined the Black Clan and was one of few who thought there was something strange about her. I really liked reading about his thoughts on Mariko before he found out she was a girl, and while I think his acceptance of the truth was just a bit too quick, I generally liked his relationship with Mariko, and I’m especially curious to see how things will turn out for them, after the way this book ended.

Plot-wise, there was some parts of this book that I saw coming, but I was really surprised by the ending and overall, found Flame in the Mist to be a really exciting and compelling read. I loved the way the story flowed, and how Mariko’s loyalty began to be torn after spending time with the Black Clan. I also really enjoyed the parts about the Emperor and learning more about his previous actions and the consequences they had. Mariko changed a lot in this book and I am really looking forward to what she does in book two. She used to be so close to her brother Kenshin, who spent the whole of this book trying to find her, but now…I wonder what will happen between them. And after the ending, I really just can’t wait to read book two!

To conclude, Flame in the Mist was an excellent read, and I loved the world-building and getting to know all of the characters. Recommended.

1 comment:

  1. I'll admit this sounds good but I feel like that synopsis just told the whole story. I'm sure there's a lot more to it but it sure felt detailed.

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