Title: Flame in The Mist
Author: Renee Ahdieh
Release date: May 18th 2017
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
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’m still slightly shaken after finishing this book last night. I couldn’t stop rewinding the scenes in the last 100+ pages in my head. With that being said, it was a unique, enchanting and gripping read.
Much like The Wrath and The Dawn, we follow Mariko, a stubborn but strong-willed character. Feminist themes were portrayed through her effectively which, in my opinion, was the highlight of this book. Her character development was so well done too, and very empowering. Despite Mariko’s mulishness, her determination and perseverance was admirable. Truly a warrior in disguise.
In the topic of characters, everyone else was just as flawed as Mariko – different pasts, goals and desires. There are ones you grow to love and hate, but you can’t deny how well-defined each individual are. I especially love Yoshi, Ranmaru and Okami ❤
Ahdieh’s writing was, just as expected, beautiful. And manipulative, if that makes sense.. if I have to describe this book in one word, it would be contradictory. Everything twists and bends right under our noses, but the author makes sure to reel you away from it all. And when the plot twists, it it hits you with full force. I know it struck me hard several times.
Moreover, the world-building was brilliant. You can almost smell the rain and must in the Jukai forest and drown in the beauty of the Hanami tea house. Atmosphere is important in Fantastical books like these. And again, Ahdieh does a brilliant job at it. And the fact that it was a Japanese setting? *swoons* as if my obsession with Japan can’t grow any further.
My only one complain in this was the romance, surprisingly. I knew it was coming, heck, I was anticipating it. Yet, it seemed as if it came out of nowhere. It felt flat, and the scenes that were meant make you squeal and swoon over just made me gape and shake my head. However, as I read further, it started to pull me in. I guess given the circumstances, things started getting intense and complicated, and I couldn’t help but root for them. Still, I’m not very convinced.. There’s potential that in the future the romance might bloom into something I can finally accept, but for now it hasn’t won me over. It was disappointing because I knew it was bound to happen, but when it did it didn’t grip me as much. But overall I still really e joyed it. Ahdieh is a genius, and this story was complex and compelling in its own way. I am definitely expecting much more with her sequel. The way things left out, the sequel is going to be epic.
100% recommend this to anyone who’s a fan of intricate writing, amazing characters, daring tales and all things Japanese.
Massive thank you to Hachette Australia/ Date a Book for my giveaway prize ❤