Flame in the Mist by Renée Ahdieh
A Warrior Is Never Weak

Title: Flame in the Mist
Renée Ahdieh
Series(?): Flame in the Mist (#1)
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Publication Date: May 16th 2017
Source & Format: Hardcover, bought from Book Depository
Page Count: 393
Genre: Fantasy  

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.

Purchase the Book!

Flame in the Mist was a good read but it only excited me near the end.

Flame in the Mist had so much potential, but I think between a plot that didn’t engross me until the final third and a handful of bland characters (they aren’t food, Joel), it failed to meet my hopes for the story.

It was still a good read though, don’t get me wrong. Ahdieh’s descriptive prose painted wonderful pictures in my mind of the beautiful forests in Feudal Japan and I loved some of the characters. But, I definitely believe that Flame in the Mist could’ve been better.

Also, I believe that this book was wrongly advertised as a Mulan retelling as the only similarities that Mariko and Mulan have is that they both dressed as men for a short while, their motivations were also about family but for completely different reasons. For Mariko, it was about honour but for Mulan, it was protecting her ill father from going to war. However, you can definitely tell it was inspired by Mulan. Mulan is my favourite disney film and I was so excited to read Flame in the Mist, but it just didn’t work out for us in the end.

The plot twists that the novel tried to present were quite obvious and could be guessed quite easily. But the ending, I have to admit, was tragically beautiful. It’s possibly the only reason why I’m considering picking up the sequel plus my love for Okami, one of the main characters in Flame in the Mist. Without dwelling too much on the negatives, there were wonderful moments in Flame in the Mist and there were aspects of Flame in the Mist which I did love.

Death follows indecision, like a twisted shadow.

The Plot was unclear, but I did grasp parts of it.

While reading Flame in the Mist, I felt like the pacing was a bit disjointed. When we had moments where when execution could’ve been used perfectly, it was left like an unlit match. I also had a few issues with the repetition of quotations by Mariko throughout the first two-thirds of the novel. It almost seemed that Mariko does most of her growth in the final third as these quotes stopped. But, the constant mention of these quotes felt like she forced herself to say them almost to remind herself of their meanings.

Concerning the plot, I feel like not much… really… happened. There were the obvious plot points and Mariko’s point of no return very early on, but after she joined the Black Clan leading up to the end, I can’t remember much happening. We had wonderful descriptions and beautiful moments, but these were very few and far between.

Mariko doesn’t really do anything to aid the plot. We’re told that she’s smart and clever etc, but we only ever see this on a rare occasion. The rest of the time is her judging other characters and assuming a higher status. Apart from swearing to get revenge for her family’s honour and perhaps one or two other events, everything else happens as a result of another character. It was a plot-driven novel rather than a character-driven novel, although there wasn’t much plot to go on anyway.

Never forget, Sanada Takeo: in this forest, there is no place to hide.

The Characters were… adequate. I only cared for Okami <3

Okami did remind me of Hanzo from Overwatch, though. Although it’s possible it’s because one of his skins is called Okami, I believe.

My main issue with Flame in the Mist concerning characters, was that I didn’t feel invested in the characters. The characters gave me no reason to like them apart from two or three of them. For example, the Princes and Mariko’s Brother, Kenshin felt quite bland and I didn’t get to know them enough to even see if they were worth my time. Meanwhile, other characters like Yoshi and Okami were wonderful to read about and I felt myself worrying about them if they were in any danger.

Mariko only became interesting to me near the end, when she finally decided to give up the quotes and become her own self. It was a process of unlearning and then relearning everything she knew. I hope Mariko keeps this attitude in the sequel as I think I might like it a bit more.

Okami love incoming…

Okami, perhaps the true hero of Flame in the Mist was such an interesting character that I wanted to know him. Although he was involved in quite a cliché plot twist that I knew was going to happen, he was still a great character. He was such an amazing person to learn from and also he. supports. female. empowerment. YES.

HOWEVER, the romance in Flame in the Mist felt very rushed like the lead-up to the end of the novel. Also, it felt rushed in order for Mariko to have a more personal motivation for the events that will transpire in the sequel. But I did like the chemistry of the romance, even if rushed.

There is such strength in being a woman. But it is a strength you must choose for yourself. No one can choose it for you.

World Building. Beautiful but Confusing.

I loved the setting of Feudal Japan. It was well-researched and I loved learning about the culture of Japan. The locations were wonderful to explore and it was nice seeing the different creatures that lurked in the forests. However, there were elements of world building that confused me so much while reading. It was mainly the use of magical elements that got to me since they weren’t explained. We were made aware as readers of magic through Okami, Kenshin, Ranmaru etc, but it was never formally introduced. Is it a form of elemental magic? Is it an art you can learn? WE WEREN’T TOLD.

Was it frustrating to see Mariko see a bunch of magical things happening and just accept it? Like it’s a form of her everyday life? Yes. She was possibly shocked, but she never asked for an explanation? Oh Mariko, just help us out here.

Other than that, the world-building was quite alright!

Overall, I’d still recommend picking it up if you want to read a Mulan-inspired story. But, don’t set it at the top of your TBR lists. Also, I’ll still be picking up the sequel just to see if the story improves. Plus,  I do want to see how this ends!

About the Author

Renée Ahdieh is the author of the #1 New York Times bestselling The Wrath and the Dawn and The Rose and the Dagger. In her spare time, she likes to dance salsa and collect shoes. She is passionate about all kinds of curry, rescue dogs and college basketball. The first few years of her life were spent in a high-rise in South Korea; consequently, Renée enjoys having her head in the clouds. She lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, with her husband and their tiny overlord of a dog. Flame in the Mist is her third novel.

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What were your thoughts on Flame in the Mist? If you haven’t read it, have you ever watched Mulan? Tell me your thoughts!

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  • tasya @ the literary huntress

    December 16, 2017 at 3:57 am

    I totally agree with you! I love TWATD so I had high hopes for this, but it just felt mediocre. It's definitely not a Mulan retelling, and the characters are meh. I'm intrigued with the magic though, I hope we could see more of it in the next book!

  • Bec (@booktineus)

    October 8, 2017 at 12:17 pm

    I've been hearing such mediocre things about this I've been worried because it sounds SO GOOD! Lucky for me pretty writing and a gorgeous, well developed world are some of the things I LOVE about fantasy so it's reassuring to here Ahdieh has them here! I hope the sequel improves the world and story for you!

  • Lauren

    September 24, 2017 at 11:21 pm

    I'm sorry this didn't live up to your expectations, I think I have a copy somewhere so I'll have to let you know what I think of it if I ever read it. You know me lol.

  • Martina

    September 21, 2017 at 5:01 am

    I have been eyeing this book since release, read her duology at the beginning of the year, I love her writing but always feel like her stories really don't stick with me much, probably going to read this in the future, also because I saw some comments about racism in this book that I wanted to see for myself. This review is amazing though! Looking forward for the following ones!

    • Joel Rochester
      to Martina

      September 24, 2017 at 8:16 pm

      I'd definitely agree about reading it in the future, possibly when the sequel comes out. Also, I think I'll be looking back for the racism too!

  • Cal

    September 21, 2017 at 12:24 am

    Now I have I'll Make a Man Out of You by Disney stuck in my head damn it

  • Cal

    September 21, 2017 at 12:23 am

    I've been reluctant to read this bc of the controversy I see on GR (ie racism). In general, your feedback about the bland-ness of this book reminds me of Renée Ahdieh's other book, The Wrath and the Dawn. Should I read it? PS cool photoshop w/ the fire that's #sick ahha

    • Joel Rochester
      to Cal

      September 24, 2017 at 8:14 pm

      There was racism controversy? That's something I'll be looking up now! The Wrath and the Dawn is bland too? Oh no, I was hoping to read it! I might still do though. Reading Flame, I'd say read it when the sequel comes out. That way, if the second book gets better you'll end on a more positive note. p.s thank you!

  • Abigail

    September 20, 2017 at 10:27 pm

    I haven't read this book but I enjoyed reading your review! You did an amazing job with this review. I have, however, watched Mulan!! I love pretty much all things Disney. Mulan is such a great movie and now I wanna go watch it haha.

    • Joel Rochester
      to Abigail

      September 24, 2017 at 8:05 pm

      Thank you so much, Abigail! I agree about Mulan, it's so amazing and I think I might watch it tonight as well!

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Hey friends! I’m Joel, the main writer here at Fictional Fates. I’m a reader and writer who advocates for more diversity in literature.

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