Title: Flame in the Mist
Author: Renee Ahdieh
Disclaimer: I received a copy free from the publishers via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Mariko has been raised for one important purpose – to marry. She is the only daughter of a prominent samurai and she is being used by her father to gain political advantage. Her fate was sealed as soon as she was born. It didn’t matter how intelligent or cunning she was. However, on a journey to the Imperial Palace to meet the man she is betrothed to, but on her way, her convoy is attacked by the Black Clan who were hired to kill her. Mariko was the only survivor, so when she’s alone and lost in the woods she decides to get her revenge and sets out to disguise herself as a peasant boy to infiltrate the Black Clan. However, she finds that the Black Clan are more than what meets the eye, and for the first time, Mariko and her intellect are actually admired.
Personally, I did really enjoy Flame in the Mist. I enjoyed the characters, the plot, and the romance, which came as no surprise because I also really enjoyed The Wrath and the Dawn. However, I am aware that Flame in the Mist had poor Japanese rep concerning Japanese history and naming etc. You can read this review here. I’ve also seen this pitched as a Mulan retelling, which is completely inaccurate. I’d say it is more inspired by Mulan than anything else, but Mulan is Chinese and Flame in the Mist is Japanese and the two aren’t interchangeable, and the motivations for both characters are completely different.
I really enjoyed Mariko. I enjoyed how cunning and manipulative she was, I enjoyed her wit and intellect. I loved how stubborn and fierce she was. She had some really excellent character growth throughout the novel in terms of finding out who she is and where she feels she belongs. Okami was also another favourite and I did really enjoy their hate-to-love romance. However, I felt like there was a lot of opportunities to talk about Okami and exploring bisexuality. I felt like he was obviously attracted to Mariko when she was disguised as a boy, and there was definitely an opportunity missed here which does appear a bit heteronormative. The same can be said in terms of the lack of trans rep or gender discourse. In a book set around disguising herself as a boy, it was, again, another missed opportunity. I also loved Kenshin and his devotion and loyalty to his sister. It was really admirable to read and I would have loved to have seen the two interact more than we saw.
I loved the theme of revenge, which was sort of similar in The Wrath and the Dawn, which is always a theme I enjoy. I enjoyed the worldbuilding, but I am aware it was inaccurate. However, I feel like the magic system was not explained at all and was very poorly developed. Hopefully, something that is going to be explored a bit more in the sequel?
I did enjoy the feminist themes in Flame in the Mist. How Mariko learnt that she isn’t just a possession to be sold for power and influence. However, I still wouldn’t call this a feminist novel because the lack of female characters is astounding. The writing itself though was exquisite. It’s descriptive and lush, which again came as no surprise because I loved the writing in TWATD.
Overall, Flame in the Mist is a fun and lush read which I would recommend for fantasy fans, but there are issues to be aware of.
Megan (pronounced MEE-GAN bc her Irish grandfather refused to use the English pronunciation) is a 21 year old british blogger, history graduate, lover of books and expert procrastinator. She is anxious and introverted and is currently attempting adulthood. She loves potatoes which is often blamed on her irish heritage and can often eat her weight in food. She predominantly reads and reviews YA which includes historical fiction, science fiction, contemporary, and f/f romance. She loves reading about unlikeable female characters, positive female friendships & relationships, and is a sucker for a pretty cover.