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Friday, June 23, 2017

Book Review: Flame in the Mist (Flame in the Mist #1)

Release Date: May 16, 2017
Author: Reneé Ahdieh
PublisherG.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Length: 393 pages
Source: Purchased Book

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.

    

Review:

Protagonist: Try as she might to rage against it, Mariko has always known her fate, to be married off the highest bidder in an attempt to raise her family's honor. Now that moment has come and she is betrothed to the son of the emperor's favorite consort, and she has practically given up, she made her feelings known but those around her cared not for her wants or needs. That is until her convoy is attacked by a gang known as the Black Clan, bandits who she overhears were hired to kill her. Now she decides to take back her life and find out why the Black Clan was hired to kill her, and by who. Dressed as a boy she stumbles into their ranks hoping to find out the truth, or die trying. While this story does have other third person narrative views that shine a light on other parts of the story, Mariko is indisputably the main character and I really love her. I don't want to get too much into her character development because I feel it would ruin something special about this book to talk about how she grows, but it's there and she becomes a much stronger character through that growth.

Romance: I was actually expecting this story to be a love triangle. I don't know where I read it but I could have sworn I read a synopsis that mentioned Mariko meeting two men once finding her way into the Back Clan, and immediately that sent off love triangle signals in my brain, but while there are two men within the Black Clan that play an important role in Mariko's development and the main plot, however, she only falls for one, and it's a romance that sort of took me by surprise and while it does move a bit fast for my liking, it still somehow feels realistic and not as though the author forced them to move faster, but that it was dictated in some way by the characters. Mariko and her love interest are actually pretty fantastic together. They have a similar spirit and they work together incredibly well and on equal footing.

World-Building: I am definitely someone who loves learning about other cultures and a fantasy story based on Japanese culture and folklore immediately piqued my interest. While this book doesn't technically take place in Japan since it takes place in a fantasy world, many aspects of this world felt authentically Japanese. I'm no expert on Japanese culture and customs, so I can't speak to how accurately the author portrayed this culture but based on context and general feel, this book seems very respectful. It's the little details that bring this world to life, the things that those who would just stick to well-known parts of Japanese culture would skip over, things that, even though I'm no expert I know and understand that most people don't. This world also contains some fantastic magic to it. Even by the end, the magical parts of this story are shrouded in mystery, and while confusing, it's that type of confusing that you know and hope will be clarified in future installments. This world sweeps you away and nearly becomes another character in this story altogether.

Predictability: Going into this story I thought I had it all planned out. Granted whenever I'm this sure I should understand that I'm not, but my hubris is often my downfall. Anyway, as the story moves further and further along, I do pick up on some foreshadowing and change my theories, but what I loved was that I had a theory, it came completely out of the blue, like there wasn't a whole lot of foreshadowing for it, and I sort of can't shake it off and suddenly... I'm right and there's this amazing twist and I love that I wasn't able to track where that theory came from, that it just popped into my head and turned out to be true. There are other twists in this story that I didn't call, things that don't quite fit with the YA formula and look as they'll have a lasting impact on the story to come.

Ending: So, going into this book I didn't assume it to be a standalone novel, but is it a duology? I mean, personally, I can't exactly see everything being revealed in just one more book, but her other series was a duology so I'm not sure. Anyway, the lead up to the final climax was very interesting. It was something I didn't quite see coming, yet totally made sense when it did. The final climax had a lot of great twists in it, and a pretty devastating ending to lead into the next installment. Then there's the epilogue which follows some different characters who add another kind of conflict into this story.

Rating:


This book was so addicting. I can't wait for the next installment, I just want to know what happens next so bad. I'm interested in the characters, sure, but more than that I really want to know where the author will take this world and what lasting consequences this story have on the world at large. I really need to read Ahdieh's other series really badly.

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