Published: May 16th, 2017 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers | Series: Flame in the Mist #1 | Length: 368 pages | Genre: YA fantasy, retelling | Source: I received an early copy from Penguin’s First to Read program. | Possible Triggers: violence (with some pretty graphic descriptions at times)
Summary from Goodreads:
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 Okami. Still believing her to be a boy, Ranmaru and Okami 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.
I have to admit that I had a little bit of a hard time getting into Flame in the Mist at first. I don’t know if this is due to the pace of the book, the writing style, or just because I’ve been reading a lot of contemporary lately. But while it took me awhile to get into it, Flame in the Mist ultimately ended up being a really great read and I can 100% understand why so many readers love Ahdieh’s writing.
The biggest complaint I have about Flame in the Mist is that the pace was slow for quite awhile. Normally with fantasy books, I’d expect that to be due to either world-building or because it’s setting up for the events of a series, but these don’t really explain the slow pacing for this one. It took me almost half the book to really feel as though there was a lot going on, but I can say that the second half of the book definitely makes up for the first half in action. Some of the pacing issues might actually just be because Ahdieh has a relatively descriptive writing style so that might be less of a reflection on the quality of the book and more of a “Kourtni just doesn’t really get along with descriptive writing” thing.
But enough with my complaints. Overall, Flame in the Mist is a really great story. Mariko is an awesome main character. She’s badass and doesn’t want others to be able to decide her future for her. She grows a lot over the course of the story, as she is forced to step outside the comforts of her privileged life and learn to survive. We also see her get a new perspective on things and try to reconcile what she’s grown up knowing with what she is learning about now. Her character development not only feels authentic but was very interesting to watch unfold.
I also thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the members of the Black Clan. You aren’t really sure what to think of them throughout most of the story, but you quickly get the sense that the way they’re viewed by most people is not necessarily how they deserve to be viewed. I liked getting to know them better both through their interactions with Mariko and with each other.
Like I already mentioned, the last half of the book has a lot that happens. The ending especially is pretty intense. Because of this, the wait for the second book is going to be a long one. If you don’t like cliffhangers, you might want to wait for book two before you read this one, haha.
Although Flame in the Mist wasn’t perfect, it’s still a very strong novel and one that I thoroughly enjoyed. I can definitely understand why so many people love Ahdieh’s books so much and I can’t wait to read more from her.
Please keep in mind all quotes are from an advance copy and may differ from the final version.