Title: Flame in the Mist
Author: Renee Ahdieh
1st book in The Flame in The Mist series
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.
This was exactly what I needed it to read, I’ve been in a weird fantasy anime kick lately (binge watching a bunch of them) so, when I started this book that was the imagery going through my head. It also made immersing myself in the nuances of the culture really easy. But let’s get back on track, this story was very well done, I especially enjoyed how subtle the fantastic and magical elements were shown throughout the book. How fluidly they fit with what happens.
I know that this is marketed as a Mulan retelling and quite frankly I don’t remember much about Mulan in the first place, other than the fact that she dresses up as a boy to get into the army which is not the case here. Also this story is set in Feudal Japan not China, so I don’t think is fair to call this a retelling but that’s how marketing works.
I read The Wrath and the Dawn and really liked it but I can see with this book how Renee Ahdieh has grown as an author.
“Sometimes we must fall forward to keep moving. Remain motionless—remain unyielding—and you are as good as dead.
Death follows indecision, like a twisted shadow. Fall forward. Keep moving. Even if you must pick yourself up first.”
The story is told in Multiple POV and again the word that comes to mind is fluid. It flows very nicely between characters never letting you get lost or confused at all and each POV brings a new thread to unravel. It’s a story about revenge, honour, ambition, love and justice.
I particularly enjoy the little bits into the samurai code of honour, their philosophy, the Japanese mythology, and the overall setting. I appreciate being able to grasp a culture so different than mine even in small bits when it’s so beautifully done.
“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 Characters, they all left me wanting to know more about them, about their motivations, their back stories, nothing is quite what they seem in this book, there’s so much secrecy and mystery surrounding everyone.
Our main protagonists are Mariko and Okami. I really liked Mariko she wanted more from life, she wanted the freedom that was denied to her for being a girl and she was clever enough to seize that freedom in any way she could. She’s highly intelligent and observant.
Okami was the perfect brooding and tragic hero. Carrying the dishonour and betrayal suffered by his family.
“I believe the stars align so souls can find one another. Whether they are meant to be souls in love or souls in life remains to be seen.”
Their relationship was a slow burning one, since Okami believed that Mariko was a boy for a good portion of the book. It was very entertaining to watch his conflict regarding the new recruit. It’s also an enemies to lovers type of romance, which is always one of my favorite kinds. Seeing them butting heads against one another, oh my God! The feels, so many feels.
The downside of this was the cliff hanger. Why? Why did it end like that? And now how long do I have to wait to know what happens next?
If you’re looking for a new fantasy to read I urge you to pick this up you won’t regret it