The only daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has always known she’d been raised for one purpose and one purpose only: to marry. Never mind her cunning, which rivals that of her twin brother, Kenshin, or her skills as an accomplished alchemist. Since Mariko was not born a boy, her fate was sealed the moment she drew her first breath.
So, at just seventeen years old, Mariko is sent to the imperial palace to meet her betrothed, a man she did not choose, for the very first time. But the journey is cut short when Mariko’s convoy is viciously attacked by the Black Clan, a dangerous group of bandits who’ve been hired to kill Mariko before she reaches the palace.
The lone survivor, Mariko narrowly escapes to the woods, where she plots her revenge. Dressed as a peasant boy, she sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan and hunt 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.
My Rating: 4 Stars
A little under a year ago, I was in book blogger heaven: the Texas Teen Book Festival. I had taken time off of work and driven 6 hours round trip to meet some of my favorite authors. At the time, I was brand spanking new to blogging and honestly didn’t know a ton of authors. In fact, I was choosing my books based on the B&N best seller shelves. While waiting in line to meet the incomparable Sabaa Tahir, I spotted one of the most stunning covers I’ve ever laid eyes on – The Wrath and the Dawn. I asked my neighbor about the book only to discover that the author would be sitting at the same table as Sabaa.
I very specifically remember that moment as the first time I was deceived by a fellow book-worm; the girl told me that she was only getting the book signed because it was gorgeous, despite the book itself not being particularly memorable. Based on this one person’s opinon, I purchased the books but didn’t read them until last month – a HUGE mistake. One I was not willing to repeat. I had Flame in the Mist in my hands the day it came out, and I placed it on my favorites shelf, finished, less than 24 hours later.
Those of you who haven’t read one of Renée Ahdieh’s books are missing out – her writing is stunning. While reading this book, I distinctly remember thinking there was something almost poetic about it. The transitions between points of view were nearly seamless, the descriptions both succinct and enchanting, and the plot wonderfully intricate.
Perhaps the thing I enjoyed the most about Flame in the Mist compared to Ahdieh’s previous books, is the plot’s lack of reliance on romance. Where her first duology centered around the romance between the main character and her love interest, this book focused strongly on plot and character development. Witnessing Mariko’s growth as a person was one of the main draws for me.
That being said, the romance between Mariko and her love interest was both unexpected and perfect. In many cases, a love/hate romance is either drawn out too long and overdone, or overcome too quickly to be believable. Markio and her guy were not at all what I expected in a couple, something that pleasantly surprised me.
Amidst the romance and character development, Ahdieh managed to weave an intricate plot full of politics, scheming and court intrigue. The only thing keeping this from being a 5 star book for me was the slow moving pace of the first quarter or so of the book. Fortunately, once you get past the introductions and self reflection, Flame in the Mist picks up pace and never stops.
My Takeaway: Renée Ahdieh is certainly among one of the best authors in the YA genre (and what amazing company she keeps – Leigh Bardugo, Sabaa Tahir, Sarah J Maas, and Cassandra Clare, to name a few). Flame in the Mist is an enchanting novel and proves that Renée Ahdieh’s writing just keeps getting better.