Flame in the Mist, the first book in Renée Ahdieh’s new duology, promises that her new novels will be just as awesome as her previous The Wrath and the Dawn duology. Nothing is truely as it seems in this Mulan inspired masterpiece and the heroine of the tale is just as kicks as her predecessor.
This review may contain mild spoilers for this book and other books in the Grisha Trilogy (What I consider spoilers might not be what you consider spoilers but I thought that I’d put it out there just in case). READERS YE BE WARNED!
The only daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has always known she’d been raised for one purpose and one purpose only: to marry. Never mind her cunning, which rivals that of her twin brother, Kenshin, or her skills as an accomplished alchemist. Since Mariko was not born a boy, her fate was sealed the moment she drew her first breath.
So, at just seventeen years old, Mariko is sent to the imperial palace to meet her betrothed, a man she did not choose, for the very first time. But the journey is cut short when Mariko’s convoy is viciously attacked by the Black Clan, a dangerous group of bandits who’ve been hired to kill Mariko before she reaches the palace.
The lone survivor, Mariko narrowly escapes to the woods, where she plots her revenge. Dressed as a peasant boy, she sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan and hunt down those responsible for the target on her back. Once she’s within their ranks, though, Mariko finds for the first time she’s appreciated for her intellect and abilities. She even finds herself falling in love—a love that will force her to question everything she’s ever known about her family, her purpose, and her deepest desires.
We seem to be getting quite a number of fairy tale retellings lately which is AMAZING, and while the story of Mulan isn’t really a fairy tale, I have still been so psyched to read Flame in the Mist since the book was first announced (even though it took me a while to get to it). As soon as I read that it was inspired by both Mulan and 47 Ronin I was hooked and I couldn’t have asked for a better adaptation of those stories than this.
I’ll be honest, the first third of the book was a bit slow; not bad, just slow. On her way to meet her betrothed, Mariko is attacked by people who appear to be the Black Clan. While she does escape, instead of heading home like the dutiful daughter she is supposed to be, she dresses as a boy and attempts to find out who exactly tried to kill her (All of this is in the blurb so you can’t get mad at me for telling you). Eventually she arrives at the Black Clan’s camp and that is when the book really starts to pick up the pace. There were tons of awesome little twists and THAT ENDING! I totally didn’t see it coming but in hind sight it makes a TON of sense. One complaint I did have (one of the only complaints really) was with the magic system in the book. I’m hoping that it will be explained and elaborated on more in the second novel because in this book it was kind of vague and sporadic and I’m not exactly sure how it works.
Our main lady, Mariko, is, in my opinion, similar to Shahrzad from The Wrath and the Dawn but not as good. I still liked her character an immense amount but I didn’t like her as much as Renée’s previous heroine. She is brilliant and talented and sick to death of men telling her what to do. While I understand why she rather dislikes most men, what with them ruling society and seeing women as objects or political bargaining chips, and definitely agree that she is justified in her feelings, she does bring up the subject quite a bit (which was good but occasionally annoying). This may sound strange but her inventive awesomeness (Again, this is in the blurb) kind of reminds me of Hange from Attack on Titan (Which I have practically been watching on repeat for the past week) only less outwardly enthusiastic.
Once again I was blown away by Renée’s writing style. It’s beautiful, and lush, and just flows. Just like The Wrath and the Dawn Duology, there tons of words used in this book which reflects the culture that inspired it. YAY! for Japanese vocabulary (Good thing that there was a glossary in the back though otherwise I would have been Google-ing words left, right, and centre).
All in all, the story was absolutely fabulous and full of awesome surprises (I didn’t want it to end!). Renée Ahdieh is one of my favourite authors ever and I super recommend this. While it didn’t strike me as being as good as her previous duology, I’d still read it again in a heartbeat.