Flame in the Mist (Flame in the Mist #1)
By Renee Ahdieh
Summary: 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.
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.
Source: I borrowed a Kindle copy from my local library
Flame in the Mist has been compared to Mulan, but it takes place in Japan, not China, and aside from the girl dressing as a boy to fit into a group of boys, it’s an entirely different plot. It was clear that the author did her research while creating the setting and it was a gorgeous story full of magic and adventure that was rich in Japanese folklore and history. In many ways, her writing shined.
I enjoyed Flame in the Mist, but it was not without flaws. One of the biggest flaws was Mariko herself. She didn’t really do anything or have much of a purpose aside from a few scenes when she stood out as something more. Yet, throughout the story, we are constantly told how she’s so smart and ingenious. It was frustrating because she felt very much like a spectator. Every other character was so well fleshed out and interesting, but Mariko’s character felt flat.
I really enjoyed the plot. I even enjoyed the romance, though it seems it was hit or miss for many reviewers. I liked that it wasn’t the main focus, too. I also enjoyed the bigger conflict between the different groups.
I wish the book had more of a focus, but I tend to blame Mariko because she never really admitted to herself about her intentions once she found the Black Clan and so the book sort of lost focus while she fit in with them. I was also a little disappointed by the amount of telling vs showing in the book. I didn’t get that sense at all from her other series, so I can’t help but feel that, if I’m comparing them, this book falls short of my expectations. It’s not nearly as good as The Wrath and the Dawn, but it was good and I’d continue reading, but I’m glad I didn’t buy the hardcover.