Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh

Synopsis: At seventeen years old Mariko, the daughter of a prominent Samurai, is promised to marry the heir of the Imperial Kingdom in order to strengthen ties and status for her family. On Mariko’s trip to the Imperial Kingdom the Black Clan attacks her and her convoy. In order to understand why she has had a target on her back, Mariko takes on the identity of a boy and infiltrates the Black Clan. Meanwhile, Mariko’s twin brother, Kenshin, a Samaria known as The Dragon, is convinced his sister is still alive despite news of her death and is determined to find who has taken her captive.

Review: So this book was sold to me as a “Mulan retelling,” pushing aside the fact that this was set in Japan, not China, or the fact that there is a marriage born purely out of alliance, it would still be a giant leap to say this was close to a Mulan retelling. Mariko, our protagonist, was not fighting for her country in place of her father or anyone for that matter. Her motives were solely based on trying to understand why the Black Clan would attack her convey with the intentions to kill. Despite my expectations, I enjoyed this story immensely and probably because it had its own story to tell.

This story is full of grit, action, ancient feuds, honor, and political intrigue. Something I didn’t really take notice of until later, this isn’t a book constructed around romance, romance is sprinkled in, but there is so much more to this story and the complex ties these characters have to one another. But, with all the action and feuds, it seemed like there were so many parts that dragged on for far too long. There were many moments I had to go back and reread chapters or paragraphs because my mind began to wander and I lost track of what was happening, which is never really a good sign.

Character wise, I liked Mariko, she was witty, courageous, and an intellectual force to be reckoned with, though she had those moments where she seemed to have this mentality of “I’m surrounded by idiots” and it made me laugh because she had her own questionable moments when it came to intelligence. Interestingly, I really enjoyed The Dragon’s story line and his personality. In the beginning he grated on my nerves, but slowly he began to grow on me and I loved watching him change and grow throughout the story.

I did feel like each of the characters we were introduced to were interesting, I wanted to know their stories and understand their motives, and understand their dynamics with each of the other characters. Since I am someone who is tends to lean more toward character driven books, these characters made up for the moments in the plot that dragged.

Overall, the story was captivating and the characters were interesting, I really love this concept and have high hopes for the books to come!

I gave this book a 3.7/5 stars.

–Stephanie

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