My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Publication Date: May 16th, 2017
Point of View: 3rd Person & Alternative
Recommended Age: 12+
Genres & Themes: Young Adult, Fantasy, Retelling, Magic
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.
Like many others, I went into this—gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous—novel thinking I’d be reading a retelling of Mulan, which suited me just fine.
Flame in the Mist is not a fairytale, however beautifully it is written. Mariko and Mulan are both intelligent women who gain strength and fierceness along their respective journeys.
But Mariko never goes to war—she is recruited by the dangerous ‘‘Black Clan’’. Since that doesn’t happen, she never falls in love with a captain. Plus, she doesn’t fit the criteria of Disney princesses.
Oh, no. Mariko is done with dresses and pampering for ever. She wants revenge. The Black Clan tried to kill her? Well, they haven’t succeeded, so now it’s her turn to strike back.
You know the peculiar spirits—i.e. the small dragon—that look after Mulan? We have something of a sort in Flame in the Mist. Unfortunately, Mariko does not have a sidekick. Fortunately, she isn’t completely alone.
As you can see, this is more of a loose retelling of Mulan. Furthermore, Renée Ahdieh touches on feministic issues better than Disney ever did. She isn’t afraid to point out all that is wrong with the way men perceive women.
There is romance, but it’s not a romantic story. Mariko is serious about her plan to murder the leader of the clan. At the same time, she is human—her emotions sometimes get in the way.
I absolutely cannot wait to see where this is all going. I am in love.
Follow me on: