Review: Flame in the Mist by Renée Ahdieh (arc)

Renee Ahdieh Flame in The Mist
Renee Ahdieh Flame in The Mist

Title: Flame In The Mist  
Author: Renée Ahdieh  
Series: Flame In The Mist #1  
Genre: Fantasy, Retelling, YA  
Publication date: May 16, 2017 
Rating: ★★★★ 

>> Arc received through Netgalley <<

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.

Death follows indecision like a twisted shadow.

This book is pure enchantment from start to finish. Renée Ahdieh creates atmospheres unlike any other. Where The Wrath and the Dawn brought us Arabian Nights, Flame in the Mist takes us to feudal Japan and it is every bit as thrilling and wonderful.

The setting is masterfully crafted in Ahdieh’s unique, elusive writing. A girl fighting for her place in a world ruled by men, traditional mythology, samurai, foreign vocabulary, intrigue, secrets, lies, romance at its best and a hint of magic. The book is promoted as a Mulan retelling, which is actually a bit of a stretch. The similarities are there, but it’s more of a very loose adaption. Not that it matters; the book is more than captivating enough on its own.

Mariko is a noble girl on her way to marry the prince of the empire when her convoy is attacked. Left for dead in the middle of Jukai forest, she swears to find out who tried to kill her and more importantly why. All evidence points in the direction of the Black Clan, a group of outcasts, disgraced warriors and cunning thieves. Disguised as a boy, she tracks them down and infiltrates their ranks. Gaining their trust, only to betray them later. But the more time she spends in their company, the more she feels herself reluctantly warming up to them. Something she swore would never happen. All while her brother Kenshin, the Dragon of Kai, travels all the way across the realm, trying to prove his sister is still alive.

A blossom can split through a rock, given enough time.

I enjoyed this book so much. The members of the Black Clan were very likable. Arrogant in their believes, but justified in their cause and loyal to the core. In fact, all side characters were really interesting. Kenshin, Yumi, Amaya – even the empress. I really hope we’ll get to see a lot more of them in the next book. I liked Mariko as well and especially appreciated how the different types of strength she possessed were showed. Physically she wasn’t very remarkable, nor was she exceptionally talented at swordplay, but her intelligence, wit and resourcefulness were much more important and frequently saved the day. I think that’s important. I loved how cleverness beat force.

One of the best parts of the book is the romance. It’s enthralling. Captivating and consuming. Not as dominant as romance was in The Wrath and the Dawn, which I consider a good thing, but with so much chemistry between the characters. It felt balanced and natural and just really irresistible… *big, goofy smile*

The only power any man has over you is the power you give him.

Alright… I should probably stop beating around the bush and just spill it out. At least 70% of my brain was focused on one thing in particular. Ōkami. One paragraph was all it took. I read his description and I knew I was trash. The lines didn’t put him in a good light, really didn’t make him all that desirable but almost immediately these high-pitched bells started ringing in my head, telling me to keep an eye out for this mysterious, dark stranger with his unkempt, shoulder-length hair and his scarred face. Honestly not sure what that says about me. The guy had this wolf-thing going on and idk, it was just incredibly sexy. There was definitely swooning involved.

"A word of warning..." He bent closer.  
The scent of warm stone and wood smoke emanated form his skin. 
Mariko blinked. 
"Don't bare your neck to a wolf."

So why only four stars then? Because there were multiple examples of too much tell and not enough show. Mariko didn’t always act as clever as she was supposed to be. I also think some characters and scenes could have been developed more. But most of all it was… sigh. The ending. I’m seriously so disappointed in the finale. To me it felt messy, underdeveloped and rushed. Throughout the book everything had been so carefully constructed and now the entire structure came crashing down in a matter of seconds. POVs started switching too fast and plot twists (that I guessed but was surprisingly fine with) were thrown in like noisy, but mostly ineffective bombs. I missed foundation, I missed perspective, subtlety and character reflection. All I could think was… okaaaaay? Too much happened in too few pages. I’m not opposed to what happened, I just wished it had been brought better. Which is exactly how I felt after reading The Rose and the Dagger, so I’m really hoping this is not going to become Renee Ahdieh’s trademark.

I’m not going to lie, it really bummed me out at first. But it would be unfair to say it outweighs everything else. That would not be true. There were so many things to like that I would still strongly recommend this book. From the magical Japanese setting to the clever dialogue and the lovable characters. I even think I liked this better than TWATD. I’m definitely still excited for the second part!

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  1. Aw too bad the ending wasn't too great but everything else sounds pretty damn good! :D

    1. I don't know, maybe it was just me? Everyone else seems perfectly find with it, haha. But seriously, you should read this - because as you said: everything else is pretty damn great!!

  2. Actually I preferred the ending part of the book much more than the first part! The cliffhanger was a bit rushed and didn't make sense, but the whole last part was better than the first part which was a bit slow for me. I really liked Okami!

    1. Well, agree to disagree then? Did you still enjoy the book in general? Glad you liked Okami, though. I always love it when we can fully agree on a character being really awesome!


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