Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh is a young adult fantasy novel. It was sold to me that the book is basically a retelling of Mulan, but set in Feudal Japan. I’m a big Disney fan and just the whisper of a Mulan retelling already has me hooked. I can also honestly say that book-tube suckered me into it as well, but it wasn’t that hard. Plus I got to learn about some Japanese mythology.
It took me a bit to get to this novel because the sheer amount of books I have yet to read can be a little daunting. I also had a couple month break from reading last year while dealing with some health issues, but once January came around I was right back to it. This book was on the top of this list.
Let’s get down to business (bonus points if you can continue the lyric). Mariko is the almost the typical noble girl except she has skills to rival her brother and an accomplished alchemist. The only problem, she was born a woman and is basically a pawn in her father’s plan to rise in social standing.
Her life changes when on her way to meet her future husband, her caravan is attacked and she is the only survivor. She believes that the Black Clan has done it and sets off to find them in revenge. In the end, they find her when she is attacked again and is taken to their camp. All while pretending to be a boy.
The Black Clan is an interesting set of characters and probably my favorites because they weren’t just one sided. I enjoyed how she interacted with the characters and evolved with them. She learns to use her cunning in new ways and find herself outside of society’s expectations. Their leader and second-in-command are playing guess who for the majority of the book, but with a clan like this there is always secrets going around.
Being secretive is a large part of many of the characters story lines even the ones that are only in the book for a second. There is so much behind the scenes plot lines that draw you into to try and figure them out. Each character has a something they are hiding and some are hiding a motive that makes its way back to the Emperor’s court.
Mariko is always trying to bring down the Black clan, but for the most part they are always one step ahead despite her cunning. She is also falling in love and feeling accepted for the first time in her life. She spends much of the time questioning what is happening around her, the past, and even the future. Mariko finds out that they are more connected than she thought by the end of it.
Her brother Kenshin is also an intriguing character. He spends most of the book trying to find his sister, but we learn little tidbits about him that make him far more interesting.
The downside to this book is that it does have a bit of a slow entry, but it picks up real quickly. Mariko also felt flat at times before she catches her footing.
But overall, this was one book I was glad I picked up a copy. Mariko is like the phoenix on the cover rising from the ashes as a new woman.
I would give this book 4 out of 5 stars. It was quite enjoyable and I have been anxiously awaiting for book 2 to come out in June. If you like great characters, learning about Japanese mythology, an amazing lead female character who learns to be herself and use her talents, and more than you will like this book.
Let me know how many stars would you give this book and what your favorite part was?