Flame in the Mist
by Renée Ahdieh
Read: May 17 - 18, 2017
Published: May 16, 2017 by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Source: Hardcover gift via twitter giveaway (TY @TawneyBland)!
Tags: Fantasy, Magic, Feudal Japan, crossdressing girls, Samurai
Series: Duet, book 1/2
Find: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | The Book Depository | Indiebound
Book Description: 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.
Flame in the Mist is the start of a new duet by Renée Ahdieh and it features her signature brand of historical fantasy, magic and romance. This time set in feudal Japan. Here are five things you should know about this book:
1) This historical fantasy is a full sensory experience. Sights, sounds, smells, metal and fabrics and tastes too, of course. You could eat and drink your way through this book, as well as give away a lot about what is happening to Mariko throughout the story just by following along with what she's consuming. I loved learning more about this historical Japanese setting: the way the society is organized with an emperor and the ruling Samurai class, as well as the importance of honor and the ways women fit into this world.
2) Flame in the Mist is a multi-narrator experience, led by Mariko who has the largest narrative - and the clearest motives - by far. I liked this girl from the start, despite her constant "I'm odd, I'm not like other girls" talk. She is not a natural warrior in the physical fighting sense, but she is intelligent, resilient and a clever engineer. Mariko make mistakes but keeps moving forward, and and I enjoyed watching her grow and come into her own, including the way her perspective on the role of women in her culture changes.
The other characters we follow all have their own agendas that slowly converge on one another as the story progresses. It is not immediately clear in every case who is an ally and who is a villain, all of which leads to an intense ending. I'm still not sure what I think about several of the characters, and I cannot wait to get back into this world and find out more about the political and personal maneuverings and how Mariko navigates through them.
3) Featuring shadow creatures and magical powers that enhance fighting abilities, this is a world with magic. And like within Ahdieh's last series, the magic is not fully explained in this installment, but it is present all the way through the story, and I'm looking forward to more in book two.
4) Mariko voluntarily infiltrates her enemy's home seeking revenge. (For Shazi it was a palace, for Mariko it's a camp in the woods.) But of course, what Mariko learns in the Black Clan's camp and the boys she meets there are not at all what she expected. I really enjoyed the friendships Mariko forms with the members of the Black Clan (though I hope we get to see a stronger female friendship in the next book). But of course I'm always looking for the romance, and this book features my favorite type - hate to love. I loved all of Mariko and Ōkami's interactions. They begin at odds, and their banter is so much fun to watch. It is made even more interesting because he thinks she's a boy for much of the story.
5) The ending of Flame in the Mist is an explosive rush that builds right up to an intense cliffhanger. Thankfully, this one wasn't quite as hard for me to handle as the one in The Wrath and The Dawn. It is harrowing, and I'm desperate for the next installment, but I'm more excited for what is to come than freaking out.
This book comes highly recommended from me! Renée Ahdieh is quickly becoming one of my favorite fantasy authors, and I cannot wait for what she writes next.
Love Triangle Factor: NONE. I was worried about this after the last series, but there is only one love interest in this book, and I cannot imagine that changing in the next installment.
Cliffhanger Scale: Medium. You're definitely going to want the next installment pronto, but this ending isn't as painful as I imagined it would be.