Review: Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh

Flame In The Mist (Flame in the Mist #1) by Renee Ahdieh

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

Publication Date: May 16th, 2017

Genre: YA Fantasy

Pages: 368 pages

Format: eGalley

Rating: ★★★★★ (5 Stars)

HUGE thanks to G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, and Renee Ahdieh for the ARC copy of Flame in the Mist.

The daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has long known her place—she may be an accomplished alchemist, whose cunning rivals that of her brother Kenshin, but because she is not a boy, her future has always been out of her hands. At just seventeen years old, Mariko is promised to Minamoto Raiden, the son of the emperor’s favorite consort—a political marriage that will elevate her family’s standing. But en route to the imperial city of Inako, Mariko narrowly escapes a bloody ambush by a dangerous gang of bandits known as the Black Clan, who she learns has been hired to kill her before she reaches the palace.

Dressed as a peasant boy, Mariko sets out to infiltrate the ranks of the Black Clan, determined to track down the person responsible for the target on her back. But she’s quickly captured and taken to the Black Clan’s secret hideout, where she meets their leader, the rebel ronin Takeda Ranmaru, and his second-in-command, his best friend Okami. Still believing her to be a boy, Ranmaru and Okami eventually warm to Mariko, impressed by her intellect and ingenuity. As Mariko gets closer to the Black Clan, she uncovers a dark history of secrets, of betrayal and murder, which will force her to question everything she’s ever known.

A Fantasy with a feudal Japanese setting?!?! YES PLEASE! I wasn’t expecting to love my 1st Ahideh book SO MUCH! but I’m so glad that I did. When we first meet our main protagonist Mariko, we hear her internal thoughts on what it means to be born female vs. male. She isn’t at all acceptant of the old school ideals & traditions of her culture but is also very mindful & respectful of her parents wishes. On her way to Inako, the city of her betrothed, her carriage is attacked with intent to kill. Mariko does manage to escape, and it is her ingenuity that drives her to take the clothes off one of the attackers & go undercover dressed as a boy. It is her belief that the attack is the work of the Black Clan & infiltrating their ranks will lead her to answers. Her course quickly changes however, when she is captured by the Black Clan and taken back to their leader. Mariko manages to keep her cover & slowly gains their confidence. Nothing is as it truly seems with the Black Clan Or the Goodreads blurb (in a good way lol). I’ve seen comparisons to Mulan & although I can see why, I myself did not take it as a re-telling. Set in a fantastical feudal Japan, Ahdieh infuses FITM with tons of culture & it is obvious she did her research. We not only get a gender bender story but we’re also given some politics via the Bushido code which are the laws followed by the Samurai’s of the land. This played an integral part in the story, specifically the Black Clan & I won’t go into too much detail for fear of spoilers. We also get the aspect of the Geiko’s (gave me Geisha feels) who are females living & providing entertainment in tea houses where men of important affluence frequent. Mariko’s encounter with both the Black Clan & the Geiko’s leave her questioning her reality & the morality/intentions of those closest to her. I enjoyed the discussion that took place regarding both Bushido law & the existence of Geiko’s as it only helped build a more well rounded world. The second half of this book had me feeling like I was watching an episode of Game of Thrones & that is a very good thing lol! So many players on the chess board now, all with their own motives & as I previously stated…NOTHING is as it seems 😉

When we first are introduced to Mariko, we learn that she is VERY intelligent, observant, and strategic. Often looking on her twin brother Kenshin’s privilege at having been born male with a bit of envy. Mariko loves Kenshin aka The Dragon of Kai but she also wishes she didn’t have to submit to the social norms of marriage & domesticity. At the same time, Mariko doesn’t wish to bring shame to her family and this is what keeps her on course to fulfill their wishes to marry in hopes of elevating their status. It was a ton of fun following Mariko’s progression via infiltration of the Black Clan. Extremely resourceful & loyal, Mariko has now joined my small hall of fave fictional characters. Now, we also meet Kenshin her twin brother who is hot on her trail trying to find her. Kenshin who is under the impression that Mariko has been abducted, will stop at nothing to find her. I found myself liking Kenshin’s bond to Mariko but more importantly his acceptance of her “non-ordinary” nature. He may have wished she would conform just a little to make things easier but he never forced her to change. He’s always been aware of her passion for more in life, something not typically voiced or seen in the women of this world. Once in the Black Clan, we are introduced to a few members but the two that are focused on are Ranmaru and Okami. These two have a ton of history binding them, not all of it is good but goes back to their fathers. They are more like brothers now who watch eachothers back with Ranmaru being the leader & Okami the shield. LOVED these two! there’s also more than meets the eye with these two haha! discovering what hides beneath these complex characters was one of the best parts of this book. The ending of FITM brings some background characters to the forefront & begins to lay the framework for the sequel. With tons more cut throat characters coming out of the woodwork, i’m highly anticipating the sequel.

I’m a HUGE fan of lush worlds both real & fantastical, with Flame In The Mist Ahdieh delivers a huge dose of culture set in a fantasy feudal Japan. I LOVE when an author’s research jumps off the page & feeds my imagination vividly. Starting off with the very first page that lists the Bushido Code, I knew I was in for some serious story telling & that is what I got! complete with a glossary in the back of the book, FITM is a feast for any lover of cultural anthropology & Fantasy. I LOVED the underlying message of female empowerment in this book, especially seeing as it was coming from some of the male characters. Its been a while since I’ve come across male characters I truly enjoyed, Okami & Ranmaru are hands down two of my faves. Well paced, FITM unravels bit by bit leaving you with some OH I DIDN’T SEE THAT COMING! moments haha! There is a romance & I appreciated that it was a slow burn (my favorite!) with all of the back & forth banter that made me smile & shake my head. The last half of this book took on a different tone once the plot thickened & motives were made known. You’ll see power play moves being made that may leave you feeling like you’re in a game of Chess. Add to the mix the fantastical aspect & I just couldn’t stop flipping the pages fast enough. Filled with culture, politics, intrigue, subterfuge, and double-crossings… Flame In The Mist is hands down one of my top Fantasy reads of 2017 😉

Have any of my bookish peeps read this one yet? or planning to pick it up next week? This is one series (I think it’s a series lol) i’ll be keeping a close eye on…

Author: LairOfBooks

"I didn't choose the Book Life, the Book Life chose me"

53 thoughts on “Review: Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh”

  1. I’m glad you loved this book! This book one of my top anticipating reads of this year! I loved Renee Ahdieh’s Wrath and the dawn duology and now I’m so excited to read her new series. Great Review! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Raven! I have book 1 in the Wrath & the Dawn duology and so glad I do because I enjoyed her writing so much in Flame 😉 I hope you enjoy this one as much as I did when you get around to it <3!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I can’t wait to read this one! It sounds fantastic! And although it sounds a bit like Mulan, I can tell that it will be a completely different experience. I also LOVE it when authors do some in-depth research for their books. It definitely enriches the story. Awesome review! I’m so glad you loved this one! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Azia! the nods to Mulan were pretty cool but its def its own story & a rich one it is! I agree, when you can tell research went into writing a book it just enhances the experience:)

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great review for this book Lilly. I managed to get my hands on an ARC of this one and I was so excited to get started on it too. I have read Renee Ahdieh’s first series and really loved it so I had high hopes for Flame in the Mist and it more than met them. I loved Mariko’s internal thoughts on being born a woman in a world where that means she doesn’t have the same privilege her brother does. I thought it was really interesting but loved how Mariko didn’t really let that stop her. 😀
    I’m so excited for the second book now! Do you plan to pick up Renee Ahdieh’s first series now you’ve loved this book? If you do I hope you enjoy that as well. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Beth! gahhhh! I know youi can tell just how much I LOVED this book! Mariko’s internal thoughts quickly made her a favorite. I also loved seeing that she chose to use her intellect as a weapon. She knew her strengths & weaknesses & that made her all the more awesome. I actually have owned The Wrath & the Dawn for a year now smh *for shame* I know, what’s the hold up?!?! whelp, now that I’ve read Flame I just need more of her writing so i’ll def be reading wrath in the very near & foreseeable future 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s all right! Your thoughts on this book are pretty much mine as well (I’ll be posting my review for this one tomorrow and it’s a five star read from me too). Yes, I definitely prefer that she kept her smarts than turned into a super fighter in a few short weeks you know. She was already a strong fighter just in a different way.
        Well maybe loving this book will convince you to pick it up in that case. I’d highly recommend it seeing you loved this one! 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I will def check out your review, your posts usually go up as I’m readying to leave the office around 4:30pm lol, train ride reading 😉 I’ll def read Wrath & the Dawn this year though 😊 I’m actually currently on your blog checking out your April recap 😆

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Well this certainly did not disappoint ❤ Your review is stunning. I love how well developed it sounds like the characters and world are. I can definitely see why this is being labeled a Mulan retelling due to certain elements of the plot, but is it actually marketed as one? Curious on that bit ❤ This is on the list when I get back into YA!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Danielle! although I’ve heard book twitter (long sigh) & the blogosphere label it a Mulan re-telling, I myself have not seen it marketed as such. There was quite a bit of talk about it being inspired by Mulan & how it should have then been set in China NOT Japan. Yes, it follows the same base story line but was so much more than just a girl dressed as a boy to infiltrate a clan of warriors. Ahdieh did her homework & gives us a very well researched Samurai & Bushido culture. I think you’d like this one Danielle 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ah I see! I was wondering why all of the debate over this one. A book can draw inspiration from a story or even be a retelling and change the details. I am not sure why people were so worked up. Even if it was a retelling, they are not meant to be the same just based upon events. So the author could have chosen any setting. You do not see anyone crying because Meyer chose to add another planet in Cinder haha. Silly. Thanks so much Lilly 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I absolutely agree with you! I saw the same happen with Jay Kristoff’s Nevernight which I still plan on reading. Baha! @ the Cinder insert 😂😂😂 it’s very silly & that’s why I don’t engage 😉

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Resh! this was my 1st Ahdieh book and if her other books are just as good then she’s made a fan out of me lol. Feudal Japan was def a pull for me. Thank you for stopping by Resh 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Yessss! I’m so glad to see that you’ve enjoyed this so much! I have a flight ahead of me later today, and I’ll finally get to pull this out and read it. I was super excited before, and now I’m MEGA excited! I love feudal Japanese settings– but I’ve never read a proper fantasy set there. I hope that I love it just as much as you do!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. OMYGOSH! perfect read, it will probably make your flight feel that much faster lol. I really hope you enjoy this one as much as I did Jackie, easily a top fave of 2017 in the Fantasy genre. I also love feudal Japan settings & this one did not disappoint with providing culture & detail w/out slowing down the pace 😉

      P.S. safe travels <3! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I am officially even more excited to read this one after having read your review, Lilly!! The fact that it really takes that history and mixes it with all of those fantasy elements. I used to be obsessed with Japanese history and everything samurai and that fact has me beyond excited about this book. It’s good to hear it was well researched. Plus, girl empowerment!? YES! It also sounds like it has a great sibling dynamic. And when you said the second half reminded of Game of Thrones that has me even more intrigued. That and a slow-burn romance. I really just need more time to read all of the books I want to read lol. Great review as always!! 😊♥

    Liked by 1 person

    1. HAHA! thank you Melissa! I def think this is one that you’ll enjoy for obvi reasons lol. This book was seriously a winner & GAHHHH waiting for book 2 will be brutal so don’t feel too bad about the time issue cuz your wait shall be shorter lol. the sibling bond was different, they are twins but not as close as you may think. There’s love & respect, what I admired about Kenshin was how he didn’t press Mariko to change even though she was viewed as odd by the people. LOL the Game Of Thrones vibe was real by the end & the slow burn was EPICCCCCCC! gahhhh! smh ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Excellent review! You’ve basically summed up my exact thoughts about Flame In The Mist; I loved loved LOVED everything about this story. Maybe I should just link to your review instead of writing my own haha. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  8. EEK! I’ve been seeing some good things about this one!

    “FITM is a feast for any lover of cultural anthropology & Fantasy. I LOVED the underlying message of female empowerment in this book, especially seeing as it was coming from some of the male characters. ”

    So what you are saying is that it has fantastical world-building, rich cultural vibes, girl power, political intrigue, AND a good slow-burn romance?!

    Where do I sign up?! Fabulous review Lilly 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. THANK YOU AMANDA! & I’m saying yes to all of the above cuz GAHHHHH! this book! *grabby hands* lol I’m just waiting for next Tuesday to pick up mine & Gretchen’s copies at Barnes & Noble *eeeeeeK*

      Liked by 1 person

  9. This is one of my most anticipated books, so I am so glad to hear you enjoyed it so much. It sounds absolutely fantastic! Thanks for sharing and, as always, fabulous review! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

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