Series: Flame in the Mist #1
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, young adult
Release Date: May 16, 2017
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Purchase at: Amazon ◊ Barnes & Noble ◊ Book Depository ◊ Google Play ◊ Kobo ◊ IndieBound
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 was excited to read Flame in the Mist mainly because of the setting and that I enjoy the writing style of Author Renee Ahdieh. I utterly enjoyed her re-telling of One Thousand and One Nights and just had to get my hands on her newest creation. Flame and the Mist was slow to grab my interest and it was basically 50/50 for me. The first fifty percent was slow to grab me, the last fifty percent would not let me go.
The setting of this story with the feudal Japanese inspired culture felt authentic. From the descriptions of the characters, their clothing, the environment, and the gardens, all were amazingly detailed and gave you clear and vivid imagery. The poetic insights that these characters use to describe feelings, actions, or situations are just lovely and sage.
The relationship between Markio and her brother was wonderful. I appreciated that they had a bond and that she was valued by him. It is always good to see healthy sibling relationships. I loved how they each reflected on the strengths of their sibling and endeared to be more like each other in certain aspects.
For me the only downer to the story was the main character Mariko. She was written as highly intelligent but she seemed to be very lacking in her observation and reasoning skills. At the start of the story Mariko was on her way to meet her betrothed and her convoy is attacked. She comes to the conclusion that the Black Clan is responsible and becomes hyper-focused on getting revenge. So focused that she does not actually try and figure out if they were even responsible. She infiltrated the clan with little thought into the matter of their actual responsibility. It took her almost seventy-five percent of the book to start question who really was responsible.
When situations presented themselves that clearly showed that maybe her assumptions were misguided about who was responsible, she would square her shoulders and tell herself that she needed to stay the course. I would have preferred that the story be written where the main character could have been smart enough to have seen the proverbial writing on the wall and altered her course far before the story was almost over. She was supposedly known for her intelligence but she was slow to put two and two together. I think her character was highly creative but I expected more from this heroine.
I would have enjoyed this story so much more if the heroine had not been cast as “highly intelligent.” Her lack of critical thinking skills just rubbed me the wrong way and gave me an unfavorable view of Mariko. Since she was the main protagonist it took away from the story for me as I could not just “ignore” her character. I did absolutely enjoy every other aspect of this story though. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the Black Clan and once the story became mainly about them and life there is when the story took off for me. So, in the end my feelings on this book were mixed.