FLAME IN THE MIST
Series: Flame in the Mist #1
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Release date: May 16th 2017
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.
Anger is an emotion that poisons all else.
Flame in the Mist is a nice YA Fantasy novel with an incredible setting. The somber atmosphere that follows Mariko’s story serves to amp up the mystery and magic surrounding the plot, but the lack of world-building makes it difficult for readers to connect and care about what’s going on. There are fights, action, and an empowering main character, but the slow pace drags the story along.
Renée Ahdieh delivers another retelling that is actually… not a retelling at all. Her writing is still enchanting for the most part, and very easy to follow. It also matches well with the type of mythical story this novel tells, but the undeveloped relationships and abrupt shifts between POV characters takes a little bit away from the magic in this installment.
Really, though. Despite this being marketed as a Mulan retelling, it isn’t one at all. The setting is entirely different, and so is the main drive behind Mariko’s motivation to do anything. The one thing this does have in common with Mulan is that Mariko, the main character, pretend to be a boy for the majority of the book.
The beginning of Flame in the Mist is actually great. It’s action-filled and hooks you right in, with the promise of magic and revenge. Mariko’s determination to save herself and be more than what people expect of her is empowering and very well written. Unfortunately, things really go downhill after that.
The pace is all over the place in this book. After the amazing beginning, everything comes to a halt. The pace really really slows down a lot, and we spend a lot of the chapters inside the characters’ thoughts. There is a lot of internal monologue and less dialogue than I’d like. Mariko also thinks a lot about being clever and outsmarting and betraying everyone, but she doesn’t actually do anything? So it makes this part of the story a little bit too unbelievable for me.
I do have to say that things pick up again around the final 25% of the book. But up until this point there is no real connection to the characters or plot, so the big reveals and twists aren’t really shocking.
In the end, Flame in the Mist doesn’t meet my expectations. It focuses a lot on inner monologues instead of developing other aspects of the plot, the pace is extremely slow and drags throughout most of the book, and the majority of the characters aren’t interesting. The setting and magic are intriguing, but so little time is spent on expanding them. I’m disappointed.