Mariko has always known that being a woman means she's not in control of her own fate. But Mariko is the daughter of a prominent samurai and a cunning alchemist in her own right, and she refuses to be ignored. When she is ambushed by a group of bandits known as the Black Clan enroute to a political marriage to Minamoto Raiden - the emperor's son - Mariko realises she has two choices: she can wait to be rescued... or she can take matters into her own hands, hunt down the clan and find the person who wants her dead.
Disguising herself as a peasant boy, Mariko infiltrates the Black Clan's hideout and befriends their leader, the rebel ronin Ranmaru, and his second-in-command, Okami. Ranmaru and Okami warm to Mariko, impressed by her intellect and ingenuity. But as Mariko gets closer to the Black Clan, she uncovers a dark history of secrets that will force her to question everything she's ever known.
Flame in the Mist Duology:
Flame in the Mist
Smoke in the Sun (2018)
Visit Renee Ahdieh's website for more information
I absolutely loved Flame in the Mist, I'm definitely putting it in my favourite books of the year category and I'm already desperately awaiting the sequel. Renee Ahdieh's writing is so beautiful and she completely pulled me into her world from the first page. This story has obviously taken some inspiration from Mulan but it's set in Feudal Japan rather than in China and the story doesn't follow exactly the same path as the original. There is enough to remind you of Mulan but it equally holds up as a story in its own right.
Mariko has spent her whole life knowing that her only real task in life is to marry whoever her parents deem to be the best match for her. No matter how much she loves studying and no matter how skilled she is at alchemy her future has already been mapped out for her, especially now her parents have agreed to a political marriage to the Emperor's illegitimate son. She is on her way to the city to prepare for her marriage when her party is ambushed by The Black Clan, a notorious group of rebels who are considered a dangerous threat. When Mariko is left alone in the woods with no way back home and no idea who she can trust she decides to disguise herself as a boy and infiltrate The Black Clan to try and find out who paid them to kill her. When she finally manages to find the rebels she's in for quite a shock though, nothing is what it first seemed and the more she learns about them the more she starts to question everything she's ever been told.
While Mariko is infiltrating The Black Clan we also follow her twin brother Kenshin as he searches for his sister. Kenshin is a fierce samurai warrior who puts honour and decency above all else but he will do whatever it takes to find Mariko and bring her home safely, even if it means crossing lines he never would have considered before. I loved how multifaceted all of these characters were, nothing is black and white and they each have complicated motivations for their actions. Alongside Mariko and Kenshin there are some fabulous side characters who add lots of depth to the story, and Renee Ahdieh's descriptive writing will have you smelling the cherry blossoms as you read.
This is a story full of secrets and betrayal, everyone is hiding something and there are so many different plots going on it can be hard to keep track of them. There is just a hint of romance which I'm pretty hopeful will be expanded upon in the second book, I'm not going to say too much but there are several potential couples I'm already rooting for and there wasn't a single case of insta-love in sight. As much as I enjoyed The Wrath and the Dawn I think Renee Ahdieh has stepped things up a gear here and I can't wait to see how the story ends.
Source: Received via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review
Other reviews of this book:
If you have reviewed this book on your blog please leave a link to your review in the comments & I'll add the link here.