ARC Review: Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh
Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh is one of the most highly anticipated books of 2017 and I am happy to share my thoughts with you! Thank you to Penguin Teen for the advance reader copy and my honest, unbiased review is below! Also, if you are planning on preordering there is an awesome preoder incentive where you can win a trip to BookCon!
Category: Young Adult, Fantasy, Retellings
Publication: May 16th, 2017; Penguin Teen
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.
Flame in the Mist was one of my most anticipated of 2017, but cautiously so. I know Ahdieh’s other books were loved by the majority, but I was one of the few who didn’t feel the magic. So even though this sounded unbelievable, I had reservations.
I’m glad to say that Flame defied all my expectations. It’s absolutely incredible.
Mariko is an even better heroine than Shazi. Sorry, not sorry. I loved her from the very beginning and never stopped. She was strong. Smart. Cunning. And even though she may not have realized it, independent. Not in the current meaning, but in that she hated how being a girl put her at a disadvantage in life. She wanted more.
Enter her near death experience. One she believes came at the hands of the famed Black Clan—a group of supposed assassins. She sets out to find them. To learn their secrets. To infiltrate and break them apart from within. But, easier said than done. Especially when there are charming members.
Right away, I loved Okami. Brooding. Quiet. Secretive. But it was confusing since the leader was the one from Mariko’s past. And he seemed like a decent guy, not the ruthless leader his reputation claimed. But the Wolf (Okami) was always the holder of my attention. Which, seemed to be the case for Mariko too.
As the story progresses and Mariko becomes even more enraptured by the group, it seems as if her initial intentions are waning. That even though she seeks revenge, maybe there is more to the story. And as she begins to unravel even more about the Black Clan, she has even more questions than answers.
Ahdieh’s writing is superb. Not overly flowery this tom around, I found the flow to be spot on. Easy to read and that alone made the story fly by. But that’s only part of it. Because this story is also told from her brother’s point of view. The one who is searching for her. The twists and turns. The heart-racing moments in which you wonder the choice she’ll make between the Clan and her family, responsibility. I felt as torn as she most times.
The Clan seemed to be more. As did their leader. There were secrets waiting to be unveiled. And once they were, while not shocking, it did add more intrigue to the end of this book.
The action scenes are nothing short of fantastic. I could picture the battles easily. It felt like a movie script. The romance! A slow burn. One that creeps up on the characters, catches them by surprise—all the while the reader has been rooting them on. Waiting (im)patiently for them to get it together. Waiting for Mariko’s true identity to be revealed. And, along with that, waiting for the repercussions of such.
Flame in the Mist is outstanding. Phenomenal. The best book I’ve read so far in 2017. I will give a slight warning and say there’s a bit of a cliffy. It’s not too terrible, but you will definitely NEED book two ASAP. As I do.