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.
Where do I even begin with this absolutely incredible Mulan-inspired re-telling?! As always, Ahdieh has managed to exceed my expectations with her ability to draw the reader into the beautiful worlds she crafts. Ahdieh has incredible world building skills, but she also writes so beautifully, it is just so elegant and flows through the pages that before you know it you’re 50 pages past your scheduled read-along stopping point and then you come to the conclusion that you’re a moron for even bothering to try do a read-along when it comes to Ahdieh’s work because you know you are going to mesmerised by her work and utterly enthralled (*takes deep breathe*).
Whilst Flame In The Mist is an inspired re-telling of Mulan, it is set in Japan, not China, as Mulan is.
I love that Ahdieh kept the most important thing about Mulan alive in this book, and that is female empowerment. Ahdieh imposes on the reader the importance of female agency and that we matter - irrespective of what time we live in or where we live - , that we make our own choices and choose our own paths. One of my favourite quotes from the book;
“There is such strength in being a woman. But it is a strength that you must choose for yourself. No one can choose it for you. We can bend the wind to our ear if we would only try”. Everytime I read Ahdieh’s work I always feel so empowered afterwards, like I can conquer whatever I put my mind to – I am capable, I am a woman and I am strong."
The characters in Flame In The Mist are incredible! Ahdieh creates characters who are mesmerising, damaged, full of flaws, but who also have incredible attributes, skills, and who are able to overcome hurdles throughout the novel.
As always, there is romance and is the romance absolutely incredible? Yes, yes it is! Ahdieh makes me swoon with the way she manages to write romance into a novel, without it being over-powering or seeming like “oh they’re totally going to end up together” – it’s a game of cat and mouse and when it finally happens you want more!
The main protagonist Mariko is now one of my favourite female heroines of all time – she’s smart (most of the time), witty & charismatic but she also has her flaws - she isn't perfect & that is one of the reasons why I love her more.
The plot flows in my opinion at the perfect pace; not overall fast but not slow either, aside from the ending because that was just a little too fast and short in my opinion. However, the ending had me with my fist’s clenched, then my jaw wide open in shock and I was turning the final pages so quickly that when I got to the acknowledgements, I was hoping for a sneak peak of book #2 and nada! – Why do you do this to me Ahdieh?! Hahaha.
Now I had to add in a few negatives...
I could have done without some of the multiple POV's, particular Maroki's brother Kenshin - he was boring and he was suppose to be this mighty warrior etc. but I just didn't like him at all - perhaps he will win me over in book #2.
My one surprising annoyance was Maroki; she had been summarised as a smart and intelligent character but there were times in the novel where I wanted to slap her and ask her "aren't you suppose to the the smart one here?! Wake up!" but then I reminded myself she's still young and has a lot to learn, which I am sure she will in book #2.
Lastly, my final annoyance was how quick the ending was and how much was thrown at us but all in such a short period of time and it felt a little disappointing. I felt as if it could have had more to it, so I am hoping book #2 kicks off straight after Flame In The Mist's ending.
It was really a tough decision to loose a star off my original rating of 5/5 STARS rating but after chatting it through, I just couldn't get past these points.
I honestly cannot wait for the next instalment to see how this story unfolds – as always Ahdieh – you have me utterly hooked.