Published by: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Flame in the Mist was the book I received in a book swap with the lovely Eleanor May. I was so excited when I received my mail and saw this book. It’s one I’d wanted to read for ages, and although I’ve never read anything by Renee Ahdieh before, I saw so many positive reviews and the premise of the story itself really intrigued me.
The story revolves around Mariko, the seventeen year old daughter of a prominent samurai. Her whole life has been building up to one purpose, marriage. This is where the story starts – Mariko is to meet her betrothed (a man she has never met) at the imperial palace for the first time.
However, her journey is tragically cut short when her convoy is attacked by a group of individuals who she later finds out to be the Black Chan, who have a reputation as being a group of dangerous and unforgiving bandits.
Luckily, she manages to escape. And in the solace of the woods surrounding her, she tries to plan her escape and vows to find the answers she needs. Why was her convoy attacked? Who was trying to kill her? Making the bold decision to cut off her hair, she disguises herself as a peasant boy, and infiltrates their ranks.
What ensues is a truly unique story. Mariko finds that for the first time in her life, she is truly appreciated for who she is. Her extreme intellect and clever mind is praised and relied on, and she finds herself warming to this unlikely group of criminals. She even starts to fall in love, although she knows she shouldn’t.
As the story unravels, more clues are given to who this group of people are, and more about their purpose and motivations is revealed.
This book was an absolute delight from start to finish, and it had me hooked from the very first page.
“Be as swift as the wind. As silent as the forest. As fierce as the fire. As unshakable as the mountain.”
Not only was the story extremely entertaining, with a beautiful blend of heartfelt and action scenes that ensure you keep reading, but Renee has a very descriptive and ‘flowery’ writing style that is different to quite a lot YA fiction I’ve read.
Never having read any of her previous books, I was a bit sceptical, as I always am when it comes to reading anything from a new author. However, I was completely enthralled by the world she created. Her prose and style is incredibly unique, and she manages to explain even the simplest things (like a boiled egg) perfectly, so you can imagine the sights, smells and atmosphere surrounding the story.
I found Mariko to be a very refreshing female protagonist. I’ve seen tonnes of comparisons to Mulan, and whilst of course there’s some pretty trivial similarities, I have to say the stories really aren’t the same. Firstly, it’s set in Japan, not China and Mariko isn’t trying to defend her families honour and making a sacrifice for her family, she’s doing it all for herself.
She’s also portrayed in a far more real way. Although she takes on the mantle of dressing and acting like a man, this doesn’t suddenly make her a brilliant fighter, or possess her of a brutal nature. She’s still very vulnerable, and her ready mind remains her sharpest weapon. I love how she doesn’t lose her sense of self throughout the story, but also manages to open up to different views of the world and the people surrounding her.
Honestly, if you haven’t read this book and want to read something that combines suspense, romance and a delicate story about Japanese culture and life, then this is 100% a book you need to be reading.
I was a complete fangirl by the end, and I’m so excited that it’s to be part of a series. I’ll definitely be picking up some more of Renee’s books too.
I would give this book a rating of 8/10. Have you read this book? If so, let me know what you thought!