Title: Flame in the Mist
Author: Renée Ahdieh
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Retellings
Format: eARC via First to Read
Description (Source: Amazon):
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.
Flame in the Mist is a Mulan retelling of sorts. It has very Mulan-esque vibes, but is original in it’s own right. The story is engaging, thought provoking, and well written. I’ve never read a Mulan retelling, but it was always one of my favorite Disney films so I was excited to have the opportunity to get my hands on an ARC!
The checklist of things I love in a YA Fantasy that Flame in the Mist fulfilled:
- Kick-ass female protagonist ☑️ →Mariko is great. She is witty, intelligent, and funny. AND…..breaks the mold on YA fiction’s heroines (so pretty, but doesn’t know she is; clumsy and awkward, but can wield a sword like she’s been doing it ll her life; etc.)
- Lots of action☑️
- Plot twists☑️ →Two major ones. And the ending! 😲😲😲😲
- Great platonic friendships☑️→ Not only do we have friendships between males, but also a couple good ones between Mariko and other members of the Black Clan.
- Romance☑️ →The romance is barely there, so if you don’t like romance in your books I still think you will enjoy it.
The biggest reason I didn’t wouldn’t rate it a full 5/5 is because I found myself getting caught up a few times by all the descriptions. I connect more with plot-driven writing than character-driven, even when the descriptions and internal dialogue are beautifully done.
– 4.5/5, but for the purposes of this rating system it’s been rounded up.
– This is a random and unexpected thought. I like how Mariko’s virginity was handled. It’s not really a major spoiler to anything significant in the plot, but spoiler alert if you don’t want to know. Mariko made the decision to have sex with a stable boy that she didn’t particularly know or have feelings for. She chose to do this because she wanted the loss of her virginity to be her own choice, not sold to the highest bidder. I liked the lack of slut-shaming and the fact that a big deal wasn’t made about it.
– Overall, I loved this book. I’m definitely going to be continuing with this series! – which is good because I’m getting this book in TWO of my book subscription boxes in May 😑