Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh
Published by Putnam on May 16th 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Source: Hachette Publishing NZ
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Find at Hachette NZ
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 Ōkami. Still believing her to be a boy, Ranmaru and Ōkami 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.
Flame in the Mist begins with a scene of a young boy witnessing the execution of his father, so it’s no smooth entrance to the book. The main story line begins in the next chapter, with young Nobel teenager Mariko being escorted to her betrothed in another city. Her carriage is attacked by the Black Clan, and she flees into the woods, but not without realising that they were there to kill her.
Desperate to find out why, Mariko infiltrates the Black Clan’s group, dressed as a boy, but while she’s undercover, she learns more every day about the leader, Ranmuru and his right-hand man and best friend, Ōmaki, and their story. As the Black Clan warms to Mariko, she unwittingly becomes a part of their team and travels with them, learns from them.
Meanwhile, Mariko’s brother, Kenshin, aka The Dragon of Kai, is on her trail, desperate to find his sister. When he eventually does, neither of them are the same.
My Thoughts on Flame in the Mist
Reading Flame in the Mist was like reading Mulan. It’s definitely Japanese, and she’s not out to save China, but some of concepts were similar. There was many a time when I wanted to break out into “I’ll Make a Man Out of You”, especially this this quote:
“Be as swift as the wind. As silent as the forest. As fierce as the fire. As unshakable as the mountain.”
But other than that, it’s unlike anything I’ve read before. I love Japanese culture and myth, but I hadn’t ever read a young adult novel in which it’s the main theme. It was really refreshing to read, therefore, and highly enjoyable.
Mariko as a character is spectacular. I love how she goes from seemingly well-put together noble teen to unruly peasant boy running through the forest and designing throwing stars. Despite her situation, she always seemed to be in control, and the way she went about things was brilliant.
The love story within in this great book is somewhat beautiful. It wasn’t unexpected as a reader, but it was for Mariko. Everything leading up to the moment was well written and well thought out. I definitely like their relationship (I won’t spoil with whom), and the way he finds out she’s a girl and not a boy is brilliant.
The theme of women, and what it’s like being a woman in a man’s world, is definitely one that plays out a lot in this book. Mariko is definitely pushing the limits and barriers of the society she lives in, and Ahdieh writes it extremely well.
“I’ve never been angry to have been born a woman. There have been times I’ve been angry at how the world treats us, but I see being a woman as a challenge I must fight. Like being born under a stormy sky. Some people are lucky enough to be born on a bright summer’s day. Maybe we were born under clouds. No wind. No rain. Just a mountain of clouds we must climb each morning so that we may see the sun.”
Speaking of writing, while it did take me a little while to get into Flame in the Mist, the way Ahdieh writes definitely captivates. I haven’t read anything else by here yet – I hear the The Wrath & the Dawn series is amazing – but now I really want to.
This book is a joy to read and a fantastic addition to the YA genre. Flame in the Mist was released this week, so be sure to pick up a copy. Thank you to Hachette Publishing NZ who sent me this book in exchange for an honest review.
Have you gotten in quick and read this yet?