Book: Flame in the Mist
Author: Renée Ahdieh
Pages: 368 (Paperback)
Published: May 16th, 2017
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.
Wow, this was good! Like, really good. The protagonist, Mariko, was amazing. Seriously amazing. She is incredibly strong willed, smart and doesn’t take shit from anyone. While silently rebelling against her father and the generally more inferior position in this society based on feudal Japan, she later throws all gender roles aside, disguises as a boy and joins a band of bandits. She is an inventor, her mind constantly working, leaving me in awe of how clever she is, but also how childishly naive sometimes, because she has not seen much of the world. Which all changes while she is with the Black Clan.
And let me tell you about the Black Clan! They are a group of exiled, of outcasts, of people who lost their home. And while the story unfolds, I fell in love with them more and more. Basically, they are one big family and reminded me a lot of the Lost Boys from Peter Pan. All of them are unique and have a purpose, they are fighters and cooks and smiths, everyone being necessary, all of them having their very own story. I loved exploring their characters, because not all of them are, what they seem to be.
In the beginning it was a tad bit hard for me to find into the story. The first chapters were really exciting already, but then it was slow, slow, slow. There was a lot of character descriptions and world building, but nothing more was really happening. But as soon as everything was explained, the plot got much faster, and it was impossible for me to set the book down. My eyes basically flew over the pages, absorbing every word, I loved it. But nevertheless I wish there would have been more action, more fighting and less walking around and talking.
The writing style though was pretty repetitive. Things were mentioned again and again, so I began to wonder if it was just to emphasize these things or if they were important. I liked the writing, even though it could have been a bit better.
Another element I’m not sure about is the magic. As I said before, the book is set in a world similar to feudal Japan, but it has magic. The concept of magic is never explained, though, it just exists in very different variations and that kind of threw me off. Somehow the magic was used as a problem solver, when the author couldn’t think of anything else. I wish there would have been more explained about how the magic works, if everyone knows about it, who can wield it and why.
Nevertheless, this was a fast, great read with a spectacular ending and I most definitely need to know how the story continues!