Title: Flame in the Mist
Author: Renee Ahdieh
Genre: Fantasy, YA, romance, historical, retelling, fiction
First Published: May 2017
Series: Flame in the Mist #1
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 pleasantly surprised. It wasn’t no Strange the Dreamer or The Book Thief but, it was good. Very good. I enjoyed reading it immensely, and think most people would as well.
For me, I wasn’t into it in the beginning. I was actually almost about to put it down and just give up, when something finally happened, and I was drawn back in. So, after my initial doubts, I kept getting surprised, and found myself running back to it, and staying up to finish ‘one more chapter’. These are usually the signs of a good book for me, and so while I wasn’t sure at first, I think I’ve got to give it 4 stars.
Somehow, after reading reviews and the blurb, I still didn’t realise it was a Mulan retelling, set in the wonderful world of feudal Japan. (In case you didn’t know either, there you go 🙂 ) And it was wonderful. I didn’t realise how much I enjoy books set in foreign countries. Usually its the US, England, or home-sweet-home Australia, and I really liked the change of scenery. It was just different. So many little references that add to the story-building, and atmosphere, that I usually miss because they’re common place in English-speaking countries. So that was one reason.
Also because it’s got action, fighting, magic, badass females, multiple storylines and a 3D plot. You know, all of those reasons. It just had everything. (Well. Mostly. I’ll talk about that later) What lifted it up from average to better, is definitely its many parts. If it was contained to just the one plot line, with the one main group of characters, then I really could only have given it 3 stars. But, it featured the main group, it had two families connected to that, the royals, and then people related to the Royals, and they all interrelated! That is what made it so much better. There were so many little links and possibilities spiralling off in my head while I was reading, and at the end, most of them came together, leaving me wanting the next book immediately. It was written really well.
Saying all this, you might be wondering how it’s not 5 stars. It’s actually kind of confusing me as well. But most of this review applies only for most of the book. The first couple of chapters, where I was a bit iffy, was not written well. It annoyed me, almost to the point of putting down the book, (lucky I kept going, because it got a lot better), because there was nothing interesting happening. Yes, there was an execution. Who was everyone? I had no connection with any of the characters, so it didn’t do anything for me. Next thing: change in character. She gets ambushed and is the only survivor, what a surprise. (don’t worry it’s not a spoiler, I wouldn’t do that to you. It says it on the blurb) She continues into a dark, mysterious forest, and thinks someone’s following her. It’s just all so ordinary. Only when she meets the next group of characters, there’s a spark, and it gets better from there.
So, aside from boring, heard-it-all-before beginning, great book! Would definitely recommend, and my advice: Don’t give up on it!!