I actually reviewed this book a few months ago for Penguin’s First to Read program, but because I had the pleasure of meeting Renée at BookCon this year I decided to publish my review here, too.
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 Black Clan and track 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.
The Wrath & the Dawn and The Rose & the Dagger were two of my favorite books I read last year, so when I saw Flame in the Mist being offered on First to Read a few months ago, I immediately guaranteed my copy.
This book did not disappoint. I was captivated from beginning to end and I absolutely loved it. The story actually slightly reminded me of Mulan, with the whole “girl dresses up as a boy & becomes a warrior” plotline (and as a huge Disney fan this was a big plus for me).
This story was romantic, but not overwhelmingly so. The romance was pretty much a subplot, with the action & adventure portions taking the lead. I loved how Mariko got to know the Black Clan and began questioning all of her preconceived notions about them.
As I expected, this story was beautifully written. Renée Ahdieh just has such a way with words; her descriptions are so vivid it’s like you can see the setting right in front of you. She’s also great at pacing. I was on the edge of my seat throughout this story, trying to figure out who was actually trying to kill Mariko and why. The suspense is fantastically well done.
I also really enjoyed the elements of Japanese mysticism and culture within this book. It’s not something I’m used to reading, and it all added a layer of intrigue to this book for me.
The only thing I didn’t like about Flame in the Mist is that it ended! I am eagerly awaiting the next installment in Mariko’s story.
I can’t recommend this book enough!
Flame in the Mist is now available wherever books are sold.