Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh / Swoony, Feudal-Japan-set Mulan retelling



FLAME IN THE MIST (Flame in the Mist #1)

Author: Renee Ahdieh

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

Format: Hardcover, 368 pages

Publish Date: May 16th 2017

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(Click Picture or underlined title to add on Goodreads)

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.

If the Mulan aspect of this book has you excited then I can tell you now that you’re gonna love Flame in the mist. I’ve seen others say that claiming that it’s Mulan-inspired is far-fetched and I disagree. Yes, it’s set in feudal Japan instead of China and the plot and story is completely different, but I can definitely see similarities.

Mariko, while travelling to her betrothed’s city, gets attacked by a gang of bandits known as “The Black clan”. She survives the attack and dresses up as a boy before she sets out to infiltrate the gang, to figure out why they wanted her dead.

Although most of the story is told from Mariko’s POV, there are other perspectives thrown in. The story is a complex, interwoven thing and all the characters are equally as complex. It felt like there are no side characters in this story because all of them were fully fleshed out; they were all just so interesting. Mariko was of course a stand-out. I enjoyed seeing everything through her voice. Mariko is clever and, although she has no strength in a physical sense, she is badass when it comes to weaseling out of trouble and confrontation. She comes from a privileged life so it was refreshing to see that she didn’t immediately grasp everything; fear still grips her and she still has a lot to learn.

I loved the Black clan members and I loved the relationships within the gang, especially between Ranmaru and Okami. The dynamic Mariko has with those two is also pretty enjoyable. I should point out here that there is no love triangle (I know that it’d be a turn off for many of you). The romance is a bit of a slow-burn, a lot of tension and swooniness. In summary:


Another thing I enjoyed was the gruesomeness. It doesn’t shy away from gory details. The setting was immaculately done and you can tell a lot of research has been done in invoking the atmosphere. I was immersed into this world. It almost felt like a historical drama set in feudal Japan because of all the unexpected political intrigue and complexities.

The only complaint I have is the implausibility of some of the situations Mariko finds herself in. I felt like things were a bit too convenient for her. And the fantasy element in the story felt disjointed. I don’t know… At some point, blood-sucking trees and forest spirits started appearing and it was out-of-nowhere. Also, I was a bit lost on the plot; I got a bit confused in the middle. That might be my fault though, because I flew through this book.

Renee Ahdieh

I live in North Carolina (Go Heels!) with my husband Victor and our dog Mushu. In my spare time, I like to cook, mess with makeup, and wreak havoc on the lives of my characters.

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