SPOILER FREE REVIEW
Synopsis (Taken from Goodreads.com):
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.
Goodreads Rating: 4.05/5 Stars
My Rating: 4/5 Stars
As a huge fan of Renee’s writing – every time I read one of her books, it helps motivate me to write my own – and her storytelling skills, I was thrilled to hear about a new duology that she was working on. Not only that, but the more I learned about the basis of the story, the more excited I grew for it.
Foremost, it was refreshing to have a young adult novel set in a foreign country. I’ve always been interested in Asian cultures, so having the opportunity to explore a story within Japan was exciting. Renee did a wonderful job of including as much Japanese culture as she could through the use of world building aspects – terms and phrases, scenery, and culture in general. Although I did find myself referring to the glossary more than I thought I would, I still had a lot of fun tracking the world development, which was, by far, the strongest part of this novel. (Plus, it was a mix of Japanese culture and magical realism – what’s not to love?)
As far as the plot and pacing went, it was on the speedier side of the spectrum. Since I was reading this book in short bursts of time – due to a busy schedule – it was sometimes difficult to come back into the book and remember all of the events that had happened. (But, the twists and turns were definitely hard to predict and surprised me many times!) The other difficulty with the entire book unfolding quickly meant that the characterization and relationships unfolded rapidly as well.
Mariko and Okami were, by far, my favorite characters from this book (which makes sense, since they are our main characters and main love interests). Mariko’s development was truly remarkable, even if she was following the typical path of a hero quest. Seeing as she was more of the scholarly type of person – another refreshing aspect of her character – and develop into someone who can at least defend herself in attacks. Overall, though,
However, the ultimate reason why I gave the book 4/5 stars was because of the romantic relationship. Considering how rapidly the plot moved across the pages, the romance moved equally as quickly. Now, I don’t know if it was because I was reading the book in so many bursts, but I definitely seemed a little early for romance to be introduced. It is true that it is only a duology, but the romance felt a little misplaced and that it was only there to amp up the stakes for the next novel. (Nevertheless, I do ship Mariko and Okami, so I am curious to see how deep their relationship will go!)
I will continue on with reading the rest of this duology! I love Renee and I am excited to dive back into her world within Japan. This intial book was a quick read, so I’m sure the next one will be as well. Hopefully we’ll get a title for the next one soon.
Flame in the Mist (Duology)
- Flame in the Mist
“You are first and foremost a person. A reckless, foolish person, but a person nonetheless. If I ever say you are not permitted to do something, rest assured that the last reason I would ever say so would be because you are a girl.”
― Renee Ahdieh,