Flame in the Mist – Renee Ahdieh – Flame in the Mist #1 – G.P. Putnam’s Sons – Published 16 May 2016
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.
I was enchanted and surprised by Flame in the Mist. This historical novel with an element of fantasy and the supernatural is utterly delightful. I was intrigued by the cover, drawn in by the synopsis and charmed from the very first page. A story about being a woman and embracing everything that entails, even in a world that privileges men. A story about belonging and love. A story about fighting for what’s right.
Mariko’s family have made a deal with the Emperor for her to marry his second son. A barter for position and power for which Marino must pay the cost. But on her way to the Imperial City, Mariko’s caravan is attacked. Left for dead, Mariko is the sole survivor and she vows to track down the rumoured Black Clan and seek revenge and answers. Mariko must use all her cleverness and skills in observation, everything that used to set her apart and be labeled as odd, to disguise herself as a boy and infiltrate the Clan. But things get complicated when Mariko discovers the Clan may not have the answers she seeks and may be hiding other, deadly secrets.
I loved every aspects of this book. I loved the setting. I’m not well versed enough in Japanese history to know if the emperor and era is historically accurate but it certainly felt that way. The focus on samurai, honour, Lords and their workers, and the restricted position of women all provide an excellent backdrop for this story. Mariko is strong, clever, determined and has a lot to learn. But she never gives up. She embraces her fear and anger and turns it into fuel to drive her. I loved the mix of intrigue and political power. The romance is delightful. This truly is a hate to love love story and I loved it. I also really loved the elements of fantasy and slightly mystical, supernatural abilities and powers which edge their way into the story. I am hoping we learn more about them in the second book.
The cliffhanger made me very glad I already had book two in my hands as I turned the last page of Flame in the Mist. I also love that these two books form a duology and Smoke in the Sun will bring about the conclusion of Mariko’s story. I highly recommend this story to readers of both historical and fantasy books..
Category: Young adult fiction
Themes: Women and girls, arranged marriage, Japan, samurais, wealth, revenge, secrets, romance,
Reading age guide: Ages 13 and up.
Advisory: Violence – murder, death by various means including beheading, descriptions of injury. Sexual references, references to prostitution, heavy kissing scenes, implied sex scene – vague details.
Published: 16 May 2017 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons.
Format: Hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook. 392 pages.