*I read this in May, as a hardcover, and reviewed it then. I will read absolutely anything that Renée Ahdieh publishes. As always, this is my honest opinion.
The Wrath and the Dawn is one of my all time favorite books, and the sequel, The Rose and the Dagger made me so happy that I couldn’t contain myself. Obviously, I was super excited to get my hands on Flame in the Mist, and Ahdieh did not disappoint.
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.
First off, I feel like the summary is a bit misleading. It makes it seem like the alchemy is a focus point in Mariko’s character, but while it’s something she does, it isn’t prominent for most of the book, and even then, she doesn’t define herself by it. This was confusing for me at first, when I was expecting it to come out more.
In any case, I loved this story. It starts off slow, building up to an explosive ending. If you don’t like slow books, that take time to develop it’s setting and characters before going into the story, this one isn’t for you. But you’re missing out. This story left my breathless and dying for the next one.
Mariko is so clever and stubborn. It’s a true delight seeing her interact with the Black Clan. The depth of her character is impressive, and seeing the high and lows of her progress is perfect. This is a powerful story of a girl longing to be more and struggling under the weight of the pressure of society.
And choosing to rise above.
The love interest, man. The love interest is so swoony, I can’t handle it. (He’s no Khalid, don’t get me wrong, but dang, is he close). I’m obviously not going to give anything away, but yeah.
I saw a lot of people comparing Flame in the Mist to Mulan and calling it a retelling, and then seeing people arguing against this. This story has a lot of similarties to Mulan, the crossdressing, the girl trying to find her place, and so forth. There were certain lines that brought me to I’ll Make a Man Out of You every time I read them, certain side characters that reminded me of Yao, Ling, and Chein Po, certain aspects that seemed familiar in a retelling sort of way. But this story takes different turns from Mulan and I don’t think it should be considered a retelling, rather inspired with elements. Obviously, Mulan is Chinese, and Flame in the Mist is fully Japanese, so there’s a major difference there (even though retellings are retellings and you can change just about everything).
This book is a fantastic, wonderful story, full of swoons and heartracing moments. I enjoyed every minute I spent reading, and I can’t wait to find out what comes next.