Title: Flame in the Mist
Author: Renee Ahdieh
Review: After reading The wrath & the dawn and The rose & the dagger I was extremely excited to see what Renee Ahdieh had in store for us next with this retelling of The Ballad of Mulan. The opening of Flame in the Mist was amazing, we see a traditional ritual called seppuku which is meant to provide an honorable death for disgraced samurai where a young boy watches his father’s death and is intrigued by a young girl passing. Then we suddenly jump to ten years later where we meet Mariko who is travelling to meet the second son of the Emperor; her future husband. One thing that is key in this novel is a decent understanding of Eastern culture and traditions at the time this novel is supposed to be set. On her way to meet the Emperor she is attacked and left for dead but rather than go home she transforms herself in order to find out who ordered the attack and keep her family’s honor safe.
As we approach the 1/4 mark in the novel, we see Kenshin, Mariko’s brother learn of her survival from the attack and we get a small insight in the life of the Emperor and what challenges the Black Clans attack will present. I also liked the varied perspectives in this novel as we can see a event from many different angles and get a full sense of what everything means. It is in her search for the Black Clan she meets Takeda Ranmaru: the leader whom she remembers from her childhood. She learns that Ranmaru is a Ronin: a mercenary of samurai lineage, now the opening scene tires in with the rest of the story. As we cross the 1/4 mark in the novel we see Mariko taken to the Black Clans encampment with Kenshin following her trail especially after he realizes she is hiding under the guise of a man. Mariko is also learning how men think and act, she also has to curb he curious nature and tendencies in order to remain undiscovered until she can escape their clutches.
As we approach the half way mark in the novel Mariko begins to learn more about the Black Clan; their members and their mysterious ways and though she sympathizes with them she refuses to allow this to disrupt her plans. She eventually find purpose within the group with her intelligence on forging new weapons. Ranmaru also knows “he” is from a sheltered life where he has never had to fend for himself but remain intrigued by the possibilities he presents. Both brother and sister seek to unravel the mystery surrounding the attack on Mariko, we also begin see Mariko’s and Kenshin’s story lines converge. As we cross into the second half of the novel, I was very surprised to see Mariko and Okami becoming closer, close enough for Mariko to develop an emotional attachment to him. We also see Kenshin and the imperial princes getting closer, tracking Mariko down, she does narrowly escape from them but she may not be so lucky next time.
As we approach the 3/4 mark of the novel, Okami discovers Mariko’s secret although he doesn’t know who she is but agrees to keep her secrets for now. We also see a massive web of lies and deceit being spun from inside the imperial palace itself and I believe that Mariko is the key to unraveling it. We also see Mariko’s and Okami’s relationship become deeper and therefore more dangerous. As we cross into the final section of the novel, the truth about Mariko’s family is revealed to her as are the Black Clans plan now all that is left is for Mariko to decide whether she will side with her family or the Clan. When Mariko’s choice is made she now stands by it free of fear as a proud woman surrounded by her brothers.
The final pages of this novel, we heart breaking and wonderfully beautiful all at once especially when we see where Mariko’s true loyalties lie and the ending was sublime and leaves a perfect opening for a sequel. Overall, I absolutely loved this novel and Renee Ahdieh’s writing style and story telling. I highly recommend this novel to all.
I received a review copy of this from NetGalley
The book come out on May 16th but can be pre-ordered now.