I was lucky enough to get an ARC of this book at this year’s North Texas Teen Book Festival. I was so excited to read this. Even though I didn’t like Ahdieh’s The Wrath and the Dawn duology (I can’t bring myself to even read The Rose and the Dagger), I instantly added this book to my TBR due to the eastern Asian influence. Then when I was able to get my hands on a physical copy, I screamed internally. A lot.
Title: Flame in the Mist (Flame in the Mist #1)
Author: Renée Ahdieh
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers (Penguin)
Expected release date: May 16, 2017
Length: 368 pages (hardcover)
Genre: Young adult, fantasy
Synopsis: (from 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.”
Man, I really wish I could give this 4 stars. Unfortunately, this book fell flat in a few areas, making me unable to rate this any higher than I already did.
While I find Ahdieh’s writing incredibly enchanting, the plot was slow and the action a let down. Some of the major action is told “off-camera,” but I think we should have seen it for a deeper connection and a better feel to the story. I also think it took forever for anything to happen. Maybe this was due to the multiple POVs. It’s obvious there is a lot going on–there’s a hint of mystery, mischief, and magic. I’m all for the magic, of course, and the mystery floating around urged me to continue reading.
I definitely enjoy Mariko as a character, but I didn’t like her internal dialogue. It soon became repetitive. She’s at war with herself for sure, but I didn’t think there was a lot of external conflict for her. She’s disguised as a boy in this rogue group of bandits, led by a rōnin, and yet no one was close enough to discover she was a girl? I won’t say anything for spoilers’ sake, but I needed more of that obstacle.
Another problem I had is similar to the problem I had with The Wrath and the Dawn. Mariko falls in love with a character, but I felt like it came out of nowhere. Where was the romantic build-up? I felt as if it fell from the sky. I’m not saying it was good, because oh man, was it but… I don’t know. This element lacked. I needed build-up and yearning, but I didn’t get that here.
Overall, I’m excited for the next book because a lot going on in the background that we as readers known but the characters don’t. There’s secrets and mystery, and wow, I need more of the magic and fantasy elements of the story. We get delicious hints of it, but I needed to devour it, especially after the ending. What a cliffhanger!