SYNOPSIS FROM GOODREADS.COM:
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.
REVIEW: (this contains NO spoilers)
Renee Ahdieh is a very well-known author in the young adult community, but Flame in the Mist was the first book of hers that I ever read. It came out earlier this year in May (I know; this review is late), and I was lucky enough to find an ARC of it at a small bookstore. From the very first time I heard what this book was about, I was intrigued. I am a HUGE Disney fan and the idea of this main character dressing up as a boy reminded me too much of the movie Mulan for me not to pick it up!!
Flame in the Mist is a fantasy novel that takes place in feudal Japan, which is a very unique concept already. I really enjoyed it! Although I didn’t love it as much as I thought I would, the ending left me wanting the next book right away, which is a good feeling to be left with after finishing a book.
It got right into the action, which I liked, but not too soon that it seemed like everything was happening too fast. The thing that made me like it a little less was that the pacing was a little off in some parts of the middle of the book, and some things happened which I didn’t think was necessary for the plot. Towards the end, the story started getting really good and I couldn’t put it down!!! There was a HUGE cliffhanger at the end of the book, which is why I want the second book NOW.
One thing that I had always heard about Renee Ahdieh before I had read one of her books was how absolutely beautiful her writing style is. I couldn’t agree more. Even when I wasn’t enjoying the current goings-on of the story, I was enthralled with Renee’s writing. The words she uses and the way she crafts her sentences is just gorgeous. If you ever want to read a book with beautiful writing, I suggest this!
As for the characters, I LOVED Mariko, the main character. I loved how clever and smart she was. People had looked down on her all her life for reading books instead of learning domestic skills like most women did during her time. But when she joined the Black Clan after they attacked her caravan and she disguised herself as a boy, her brilliant mind began to be appreciated, and she felt truly accepted for the first time in her life.
I loved all the other characters in this book, specifically Kenshin, Mariko’s brother, and Yoshi, the friendly cook of the Black Clan. Honestly, I think Yoshi was my favorite character!! Okami and Ranmaru were both amazing, strong characters as well.
I did like the romance in this book, but I felt like it was rushed and a little weird. I only started to like it towards the end, a while after the love interest found out Mariko was a woman.
Overall, I rated this book 4/5 stars on Goodreads, which I think is a pretty good rating!! I really enjoyed reading it – it was a perfect blend of that dark fantasy that I love and bits of humor and romance woven in.
I definitely recommend this book to all lovers of young adult fantasy and beautiful writing!