Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Summary: “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.” (Summary found on Goodreads).
As per usual, I’m reviewing books practically ten years after I read them, so pardon me if I completely forgot everything. (Actually it’s only been a month, but it feels like an eon).
“Be as swift as the wind. As silent as the forest. As fierce as the fire. As unshakable as the mountain. And you can do anything…”
Flame in the Mist was actually a huge disappointment, especially after Renée Ahdieh’s debut The Wrath and the Dawn. I didn’t really love Flame in the Mist until the last third of it. It started off rather boring and uneventful. It was also rather unbelievable in the beginning. For example, Mariko’s brother sees girl’s clothes and hair on the ground and a man without clothing on and automatically assumes correctly that she is dressing as a boy now. That just didn’t seem realistic to me. No one is that good at solving things within less than a minute. Also, how did only a few characters figure out she’s a girl? She couldn’t have been that good at passing at male.
As well, there were far too many characters in the Black Clan and I found it hard to keep track of them all. Though, I do understand the inclusion of so many characters…I just wish I weren’t so confused by it all. I also only really liked a few of them, especially Okami, my love.
Anyway, aside from the beginning being not so fantastic, the last part was amazing. It introduced the hate to lovers trope (which is one of my all-time favorite romance tropes) and I shipped it so hard. I really liked the dynamic between Mariko and Okami, especially considering he wasn’t aware she was who they were sent to kill until later. Argh it was just super cute and I loved it. He also has some wonderful lines about her being a completely separate person. When will other YA authors take Ahdieh’s note and write feminist romances? It’s so wonderful to read a book where the two love interests see each other as equals and they don’t try to overpower each other.
“You are first and foremost a person. A reckless, foolish person, but a person nonetheless. If I ever say you are not permitted to do something, rest assured that the last reason I would ever say so would be because you are a girl.”
Also, the action really improved and I became more invested in the characters and what happened to them. When they met up with Mariko’s family, I was super involved in it. Though, I do have to say, I think Ahdieh has a thing for writing books where the main character betrays her family. I’m not complaining because it totally spins things a completely different direction, but I do wish she had a little variety in her storylines.
I love Mariko and she’s such a strong character. So much love for this girl <3
“If I am marching to my death, then I will march to it as a girl. Without fear.”
Okay, so the verdict is: It wasn’t nearly as good as Ahdieh’s other books, but the ending was great and I will definitely be reading Smoke in the Sun when it comes out.