Thursday, May 18, 2017

Book Review: Flame in the Mist

Title: The Flame in the Mist (The Flame in the Mist #1)
Author: Renee Ahdieh
Genre: Youn Adult | Historical Fantasy | Romance
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: May 16, 2017
Source: Publisher
Format: eARC

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 (goodreads)

Renee Ahdieh builds a rich world, but seems lackluster when compared to The Wrath and the Dawn.
Plot: Guys. Flame in the Mist doesn't take any prisoners! It opened with Mariko being transported to her betrothed, the first son of the emperor who does not have a claim to the throne. On the way, her envoy was attacked by a vicious clan slaughtering everyone but her. In order to survive, Mariko disguised herself as a young man and crossed paths with the deadly Black Clan once again. Mariko entered a deadly game of deception by trying to get close to the clan leaders and learning who paid them to kill her. 

I know this is very unfair, but I can't help but hold this book to The Wrath and the Dawn and Flame in the Mist just can't compete. I took me the better part of the novel to get my groove with this book because it was a rather slow book. Despite being told from multiple perspectives, it never felt like much was uncovered. The last third of the book is nothing but hard-hitters and it seems like Book 2 will be more action-packed. 

Characters: Mariko was a beautifully written character, and I loved how much time Renee allowed for introspection. In feudal Japan, a woman was only worth the amount of her dowry and political connections, and Mariko was offered the rare opportunity to experience the freedom of being a man and realize just how many life experiences she was excluded from. 

This novel was told from various perspectives, mostly Mariko's, but her brother also had chapters from his perspective as well as other key players. I wish the chapters told from other perspectives were more consistent and provided more background to Mariko's predicament. 

And lastly, the romance. We all know the general skeleton of Mulan, and I was curious to how Ahdieh would write the romance. From Mariko's perspective, it was obvious who she was gravitating toward, but because we were given very few chapters from the love interest's perspective, it was hard to determine how he felt about Mariko, disguise and all. 

Worldbuilding: Bless that glossary that Renee Ahdieh included in the back of the book, it was much appreciated! It was easy to fall in love with feudal Japan and the author was fantastic in portraying the culture and customs. If you know Renee Ahdieh, you know she loves to write about food and Flame in the Mist was no exception. I just wanted to cook the entire time I was reading this!

There is a bit of magic mentioned in Flame in the Mist that was never fully addressed. The magic was something that was accepted by everyone in the world, but it was unclear who possessed magic. Hell, even the trees were magic. I got lots of questions about that. 

Short N Sweet: Flame in the Mist is an interesting take on Mulan that would have used a bit more polishing. 


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