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Thursday, September 07, 2017

Flame in the Mist by Renée Ahdieh

Flame in the Mist by Renée Ahdieh

Book Stats:  

Reading level: Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Hardcover: 416 pages
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Release date: May 16, 2017

Series:  Flame in the Mist, #1

Source: Library

Reviewed by: Kara

Order: Amazon | Book Depository

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Wrath and the Dawn, comes a sweeping, action-packed YA adventure set against the backdrop of Feudal Japan where Mulan meets Throne of Glass.

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 Black Clan and track 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 loved her other series of The Wrath and the Dawn so I was keen on reading this one as soon as I could (plus, she's a fellow North Carolinian)! I wanted to like this book just as much as TWATD, but I just...didn't. I listened to this on audiobook, and that made the Japanese accents and names and history come alive, but I might have missed some key details that I otherwise would not have if I had read the book. Maybe at a second reading I'll have a different perspective, but I might just not even try. :(

This was marketed as Mulan meets Throne of Glass. Now, I love Mulan, but I absolutely really dislike Throne of Glass, so that wasn't a sell for me. The Mulan comparison comes from a girl masquerading as a boy and learning to fight, possibly also from Mulan's headstrong tendency to do as she likes rather than what people tell her to do. Unlike Mulan, I didn't feel like we really understood a picture of Mariko's personality and background before she was attacked/left for dead and then insinuates herself with the Black Clan. She seems a bit of a Mary Sue as we find out she's gifted at swordplay, alchemy/chemistry, and designing weaponry. Other than the fact that she is not like other girls and does not pretend to be the perfect ideal noble girl, most of her personality and skills are bland. She also has a typical blind eye towards other's feelings, especially if they are of a lesser station than she is. When she discovers abuses her family has done to their servants, she is shocked. It's rather like she just woke up to seeing the suffering of others since she was attacked. This seemed very...unbelievable.

Another of the things I missed was about Ōkami and Ronmaru, and apparently, Mariko missed it too. It's partially a spoiler, so I won't go into it here, but the last bit of the ending was confusing and didn't make enough sense. Perhaps this is due to the cliffhanger but I think it was simply too farfetched an idea, or due to the fact that our main character is so blind, the reader is too. I enjoyed the descriptions and writing and romance (!) though somehow missed this was actually feudal Japan with a bit of magic thrown in. The magic also is hard to grasp, as there are shadowy figures or animals and a fierce jungle cat that seems like something magical. Ōkami has some weird power too that seems magical, but none of this is explained because Mariko is kept so much in the dark. Without these explanations, I was just frustrated overall and wanted more from this story as I really think it could have been amazing. The romance was quite honestly the best part, so if you want some steamy kisses...

Did anyone else read this? What did you think?

Read an excerpt.

Kara is a teen librarian living in the southeastern US with her husband (who listens to books), young daughter (who sleeps with books), and dog (who tastes the books). She loves all sorts of books, but mostly YA, and will never catch up to all of the wonderful things to read.

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