Title: Flame in the Mist
Author: Renée Ahdieh
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Format: E-ARC via Netgalley
Publication Date: 18th May 2017
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Mariko has always known that being a woman means she’s not in control of her own fate. But Mariko is the daughter of a prominent samurai and a cunning alchemist in her own right, and she refuses to be ignored. When she is ambushed by a group of bandits known as the Black Clan en-route to a political marriage to Minamoto Raiden – the emperor’s son – Mariko realises she has two choices: she can wait to be rescued… or she can take matters into her own hands, hunt down the clan and find the person who wants her dead.
Disguising herself as a peasant boy, Mariko infiltrates the Black Clan’s hideout and befriends their leader, the rebel ronin Ranmaru, and his second-in-command, Okami. Ranmaru and Okami warm to Mariko, impressed by her intellect and ingenuity. But as Mariko gets closer to the Black Clan, she uncovers a dark history of secrets that will force her to question everything she’s ever known.
This book was kindly provided to me for honest review by the Publisher via Netgalley. This has not impacted on the content of this review, which it my own honest opinion.
This was one of my most anticipated releases of the year, so I was incredibly excited when I got approved for an ARC on netgalley. Last summer I was enchanted by ‘The Wrath and the Dawn’ and ‘The Rose and the Dagger’, and I was eager to see what Renée Adhieh do next. I wasn’t disappointed. It’s important to say that this is not a direct Mulan retelling, although there are definitely some similarities. Flame in the Mist is its own story, but equally as impressive.
Our main character is Mariko, a girl who is engaged to marry one of the Emperor’s sons, an arrangement orchestrated by her father in a bid to further his influence. Mariko is curious and clever, and is not happy that she is being traded in a bid for power without a say in the matter. When she escapes an ambush and attempt on her life, she seizes the opportunity and decides to find out who wants her dead and why. Mariko is an interesting character, she has lived a sheltered life, and while she may be book smart, she knows very little about the outside world. Although she does know that her quest for answers will go more smoothly for her disguised as a boy. What I found interesting about her character what how analytical she was, she took time to consider and weigh up her options, which often led to her reactions being delayed. It’s an unusual and refreshing touch, which makes sense when you consider that prior to the events of the book, she has never needed to make snap decisions or fend for herself.
We also get the point of view of her twin brother, and renowned samurai, Kenshin, who is trying to track down Mariko and bring her home. This is an interesting perspective, because while Mariko and Kenshin are close, their goals conflict. I really liked that we got to see that side of the story, and get a better sense of what was going on outside of the Black Clan.
The romance, I really liked the romance in this book. It’s one of those slow, hate and sarcasm, to ooops I think I want to kiss that idiot, romances that make me grin like an idiot. There were so many scenes where I was just grinning at the two of them, I’ve got to give it to Renee Ahdieh, she knows how to write a good romance. The back and forth and the tension really helped to keep me engaged with the book.
This book is the first in a duology, and as such is only half of the story. You don’t get all the answers in this book, in fact the ending was kind of a cliff-hanger. I’m not complaining, I am very much looking forward to the second book, but I kind of wish that I had a slightly better grasp on what is going on in the background. For example there is some kind of magic in play, but currently I know hardly anything about it. I am intrigued, and am really looking forward to finding out more.
All in all, this was a highly enjoyable first book, and I will definitely be picking up the sequel. It had action, intrigue, secrets, mystery and a good romance. There is a lot to enjoy in this book. Is it perfect, not quite, but I still had a good time reading it, and I will be rereading it before the sequel comes out. I will confess to being weirdly unsure how to rate this book, but I’ve settled on 4/5 Stars.
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