Series: Flame in the Mist #1
Published by Hodder & Stoughton on May 16th 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
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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.
I have finally read a Renee Ahdieh book (I know!!). I was not prepared for how much I would love this story or Ahdieh’s writing. I really wish I had picked up Ahdieh’s other series, The Wrath & The Dawn, much earlier than I did (as I’ve now since read it). Ahdieh has definitely cemented herself as one of my auto-buy authors. There’s something about the way that she writes that sucks me in.
Set in Feudal Japan, Mariko’s convoy is viciously attacked by the Black Clan. After surviving the attack, Mariko disguises herself as a boy to infiltrate the Black Clan and seek her revenge. I imagine this is the point where everyone started screaming “Mulan retelling” and that is as far as the retelling goes in my opinion. This book is not Mulan. There’s no war (at least not in this book). I’d say that this was a book that was inspired by Mulan rather than a retelling of it.
For the large part, the secondary characters were far more interesting than Mariko herself. There was a lot more mystery and intrigue, more layers that I wanted to see get peeled back. My absolte favourites were Okami and Ranmaru. I honestly don’t care much for anyone else. Half the time I couldn’t even remember most peoples names because they had about 50 nicknames each and I got completely lost in it.
I still have huge questions marks dangling over the romance in this story. Ahdieh seems to have a preoccupation with writing the enemy turned lover plot line as evidenced in this novel and The Wrath and the Dawn. My issue is that for a large part it wasn’t particularly believable. Her love interest discovers that Mariko is actually a girl and 5 seconds later they’re kissing, and he has to distance himself because he can’t stop himself thinking about her? It felt rushed. It felt abrupt. What ever happened to a good old slow burn?
This was not a perfect read but I loved it nonetheless. I look forward to book two.