ARC Review: Flame in the Mist


Title: Flame in the Mist

Author: Renee Ahdieh

Series: Flame in the Mist, #1

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

Release Date: May 18th 2017


Five Stars

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 favourite 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.

– Blurb courtesy of

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

My Thoughts On…

…The Plot

“Follow orders. Engender trust. Strike when they least expect it.”

Mariko is on her way to meet with her betrothed when her litter is attacked by members of the Black Clan and she is left for dead. Barely escaping with her own life, and the only survivor of the attack, Mariko knows she should return home, but when the rumours inevitably spread of her being at the mercy of the Black Clan she knows it will ruin her family. Determined to bring honour back to her name and find out why she was targeted Mariko disguises herself as a man to find the notorious Black Clan, but she doesn’t have long. Her brother, the Dragon of Kai, will soon be on her trail.

When Mariko finally manages to find the Black Clan she quickly finds herself in over her head. Caught in the middle of a fight, and showing her hand too soon, she is captured and taken back to the secret hideout the Black Clan calls their home.

“Sometimes we must fall forward to keep moving. Remain motionless – remain unyielding – and you are as good as dead.
Death follows indecision, like a twisted shadow. Fall forward. Keep moving. Even if you must pick yourself up first.”

After Mariko’s trail goes cold at the watering hole where she was captured Kenshin changes course and heads to Inako to meet with his sister’s betrothed  and find answers there, but the closer Kenshin gets to the truth the more determined someone is to keep him from discovering anything. Both Mariko and Kenshin are playing a dangerous game with their lives; as Kenshin finds secrets and betrayal in Inako Mariko finds herself under scrutiny from Ōkami and questioning everything she’s ever known.

Flame in the Mist jumps right into the action when Mariko’s litter is attacked, and while the action slows down in the middle Renee Ahdieh tells a story full of secrets and betrayals with enough twists and turns to keep me interested until the very end. The story was told from Mariko’s, Kenshin’s and Ōkami’s POVs, and each character had their own distinct voice which made them easy to distinguish from one another and made their motivations easy to understand.

…The Characters

“She would not die a coward. Mariko was the daughter of a samurai. The sister of the Dragon of Kai. But more than that, she still held power over her decisions. For at least this one last day. She would face her enemy. And die with honour.”

Mariko is described as an incredibly curious character, and as the daughter of a prominent samurai her curiosity has always been endured rather than ignored. Mariko is not happy about being sold off in a political marriage but knows the match will bring honour to her family. After being attacked she’s determined to bring back her families honour however she can, which leads her to track down the Black Clan. Unlike her brother Mariko is not a fighter, her talents lie in the way her mind works and it’s only among the members of the Black Clan that Mariko’s curiosity is nurtured rather than simply endured.

“There have been times I’ve been angry at how the world treats us, but I see being a woman as a challenge I must fight. Like being born under a stormy sky. Some people are lucky enough to be born on a bright summer’s day. Maybe we were born under clouds. No wind. No rain. Just a mountain of clouds we must climb each morning so that we may see the sun.”

As a woman Mariko does not have the same power and opportunities her brother has had. She chafes at the restrictions placed on her simply because of the gender she was born with and has no real power unlike her brother. It was interesting reading the way women were portrayed in this story, and the way Mariko saw her own gender. We see a few other women in this book, from geikos to empresses, and they weren’t weak. They had their own power it was simply a different kind of power to what the men in the story held.

We see a lot of this story through Kenshin’s POV as he searches for his sister. Kenshin doesn’t believe Mariko is dead, not after he sees her tracks leading away from the litter. As the famed Dragon of Kai Kenshin believes in the honour of the samurai and the honour of his family like he has been taught, and every day he fails to find his sister weighs on him but also drives him forwards. Unlike his sister and father Kenshin is not as good at reading people or being subtle, which potentially puts him in danger when he travels to Inako to find answers, and he quickly finds himself in over his head when searching for Mariko.

“And a part of her couldn’t help but think – were he another boy, in another time, in another place – Mariko would have liked to hear Ōkami’s laughter.
Would have enjoyed being the cause of it.
But he was a member of the Black Clan. The band of mercenaries who had tried to kill her.”

The more time Mariko spends with the members of the Black Clan the more she sees a different side of them that the many rumours spread didn’t reveal. Takeda Ranmaru and his best friend Ōkami are incredible fighters and incredibly loyal to one another, linked by death and betrayal Mariko can’t understand from her outsider’s perspective. Mariko sees Ōkami as rude, lazy and deadly dangerous but there’s a lot more to both boys than meets the eye.

…The Setting

“Be as swift as the wind. As silent as the forest. As fierce as the fire. As unshakable as the mountain.”

Flame in the Mist seems to be set in a world where nothing is as it seems, a world where honour means everything but there are still those who fight without honour. Inako is a beautiful city we get to see small glimpses of as Mariko and Kenshin travel there, but it is a city that hides something much darker at its core. Likewise the woods where the Black Clan make their home seems to be a place full of danger, with trees that can kill, but it quickly becomes home for Mariko, somewhere safe. There are hints of magic woven throughout the story but I hope it’s something that will be expanded on and explored in the next because at the moment I’m a little confused whether it exists as a bigger part of the world or not.

I loved Renee Ahdieh’s first series so I had high hopes for her second, and Flame in the Mist did not disappoint. The character development and world building were incredible, and while the plot was less action-filled as I originally thought it would be there was still plenty of twists and betrayals to keep me hooked.

What did you think of Flame in the Mist? Was it a favourite of yours or could you just not get into the story? Let me know.

All quotes have been taken from an ARC and may differ in the final publication.

61 thoughts on “ARC Review: Flame in the Mist

  1. eeeee! So glad you loved this I can’t wait to read it and that cover is so beautiful, I haven’t read The Star Touched Queen but I think I’ll be starting with this one anyhow 😀 Great Review ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh overall it was a brilliant book, how gorgeous the cover is is how amazing the story itself is so I’m sure you’ll love it. I really hope you enjoy The Star-Touched Queen too, it’s another favourite of mine! 😀
      Thanks so much Casey! 🙂 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  2. YESSSSS! I can’t stop raving about this book! WONDERFUL review Beth! I’m so happy you enjoyed this one as well, it deserves all the love. Mariko’s curiosity was one of my fave things about her personality, loved her experiments 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I feel completely 100% the same about this book, and thanks so much Lilly! 😀
      Flame in the Mist was amazing, even better than her first series I think, and yeah Mariko was an amazing character as well. We need more female heroines like her in YA fantasy books like this! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh my gosh!! I never would have guess I’d be able to get even more excited for this book. 😂😍 I adored The Wrath and the Dawn series SO MUCH and this book sounds absolutely epic and amazing. I love the diversity aspect as well and ahhhhh this just sounds so fabulous. Can’t wait for this release and so glad you loved it! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is a pretty eagerly anticipated release isn’t it? It’s a great book as well so I feel like the wait will be more than worth it! 😀
      I actually thought Flame in the Mist was even better than TWATD so if you loved Renee Ahdieh’s first series I’m pretty sure you’ll love this book as well. It’s just amazing!
      Thanks so much Analee! 😀 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m really happy to see that you loved Flame in the Mist! 😀 I haven’t read anything by Renee Ahdieh yet, but I seriously want to! I think I will read her Wrath and the Dawn duology first though, simply because both books are out and I don’t have to wait for the sequel. Flame of the Mist sounds amazing as well! Ever since I heard that it has elements of Mulan (which is my favourite Disney movie) I knew that I had to read it! Amazing review Beth! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much Anna. I’d highly recommend picking up Renee Ahdieh’s books whenever you get a chance, but yeah starting with TWATD duology is a better idea. I’m not sure how I’m going to wait for the sequel to Flame in the Mist, I want it so badly. 🙂
      Flame in the Mist is definitely a brilliant book, and if you like Mulan I think you’ll like this book as well! 😀 ❤
      Thanks so much Anna. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. YAY! I’ve been waiting for your review for this one since you told me you got accepted for an ARC, Beth. I’m so glad you ended up loving it. 😁 And I’m even more excited to read it myself now. I’ve been hearing a lot about how well Renee Ahdieh weaves Japanese culture and history into this and I love that there is a magic aspect. Sucks that it wasn’t a huge part of the story but definitely has me intrigued. Mariko sounds like such an incredible character too! I love how she is more of a character who uses her brain rather than a fighter. That reminds me of Kestrel from The Winner’s trilogy who is one of my favorite characters for that reason. And I just love the whole samurai aspect. I didn’t know it had three POVs though, that’s awesome. I’ve heard a few people say that even though people have been saying it’s a Mulan retelling that it doesn’t have a lot of similarities. What did you think on that front? More of a REALLY loose retelling? Either way, I can’t wait until I get the chance to read it. Great review as always!! 😊♥

    Liked by 1 person

    1. In that case I hope the wait for my review was worth it! 🙂 And yeah I thought this was an amazing book, and I cannot wait for the second in the series now either.
      I really am sure this is a book you’ll love as well Melissa. Renee Ahdieh developed the world-building really well, the only let down in a way was that the magic aspect wasn’t explored more, but hopefully that’ll change in the second book.
      Yes Mariko definitely reminds me of Kestrel in that aspect. The two character are completely different characters but they’re not brilliant fighters so they use their brains to win battles, It was kind of interesting to read another character like that you know?
      The three POVs made for an interesting way to tell the story, and I’d say it was more Mulan inspired than Mulan retold you know, a loose retelling rather than a word for word one.
      I can’t wait to see your review for it in that case.
      Thanks so much Melissa! 😀 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Definitely worth the wait! And from what I’ve heard about the author’s other books (which I’ve yet to read myself) I’m not surprised the world building was done really well. It sounds like she is definitely incredible at world building.
        I love that she’s similar to Kestrel in that way. Honestly, there isn’t enough characters who aren’t great physical fighters and use their brain to win battles. I need more characters like that in books! Not that I don’t love heroines that can kick ass in a fight but well it really is nice to see it the other way every now and then.
        Yeah, that’s what I figured – that it was more Mulan inspired. Either way, it’s still great to have even a Mulan inspired retelling. I’ll let you know whenever I do read it! Hopefully sometime this year if I get the chance.
        You’re welcome, Beth!! 😊♥

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh well in that case you need to add TWATD to your to-read list if you haven’t already. I mean, I though Flame in the Mist was even better but The Wrath and the Dawn was still a brilliant story, and yeah her world-building is amazing! 😀
        Exactly. If needed characters can learn how to fight but using your intelligence like Kestrel and Mariko do is something you either have an instinct for or not, it’s not really something that can be learnt.
        Yes it definitely is, I think this is the first Mulan inspired book I’ve actually seen (though I could be wrong about that). 😀 ❤

        Liked by 1 person

      3. TWATD is definitely on my TBR! Not sure when I’ll get to it but it’s been on there for a while so one of these days. 😁
        I completely agree! Intelligence like both of them have really is something that is more instinct whereas any character can learn how to fight. I feel like it’s one of those tropes we don’t see often enough but hopefully will see more of.
        It’s the first Mulan inspired book I’ve seen for sure. I think mostly when it comes to retellings I come across Beauty and the Beast ones or Hades and Persephone ones.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Ohh that’s half the battle I guess. I’m all too aware of books ending up on my to-read list for what feels like an eternity! 🙂
        It’s why it would be great to see more of it in YA heroines. I’d love to see more characters who don’t need to learn how to fight but can defend themselves with their ideas and words. It’s a really powerful thing to read I think.
        Yeah those two seem to be the top faves. Shame because there are so many other amazing fairytales/Greek myths that can be retold! 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Yep, there’s just so many books and not enough time to read all of them. Which is exactly why I wish I could read more than one book at a time. I feel like people who can get through so many more books. 🙈
        Definitely. And not a heroine but Kaz was kind of like that too wasn’t he? He was more cunning, smart, and had ideas rather than physically fought. He always outsmarted his enemy before it could come to an actual fight. I think it would be great to also see more heroes like that too. I agree it’s a powerful thing to read. I feel like it’s even more intense than fighting scenes at times. 😊
        They really do and it is a shame because there are so many other tales.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. I used to be able to read more than one book at a time but it got too confusing mixing the stories and the characters up you know? I don’t think it lets people read more books more quickly, it just probably seems that way.
        Oh Kaz was definitely like that. For some reason I didn’t think of him but I guess it’s nice to see female characters with those traits as well. Seems to me to be rarer in them than in male ones. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      7. I’ve never been able to do it but it does seem confusing. I would most likely mix up the characters and the stories and never be able to write a review. 😂 And I agree, I don’t think it lets them read more books quicker but rather they might get through more of their TBR a bit faster than those of us who can’t read multiple books at once. Or at least it seems that way for some.
        Definitely rarer to see it in a female character than a male character. Sometimes I wonder why that is and if it plays into a stereotypical idea of strength in terms of female characters and having to make them completely badass physically rather than just mentally to have them considered “strong” characters. When strength really comes in so many different forms, you know? Between my Q&A and being asked about strong female/male characters and then Samantha Shannon’s tweets I’ve actually been thinking about that a lot lately. 😶

        Liked by 1 person

      8. I used to read a couple of books at the same time. I’m not really sure how I did it if I’m being honest but I just can’t anymore, I find it way too confusing. It probably just seems that way because they’ve been reading two at the same time so can mark two off as read instead of one you know?
        Who knows? I mean on one hand it’s great to see female characters become strong in terms of fighting skills and having that opportunity, but yeah I get what you mean. I’ve been thinking about that myself as well, there are so many different ways a woman can be strong that really that word doesn’t have the same meaning twice does it?

        Liked by 1 person

      9. Probably. Still I do wish I was able to read multiple books at once but at the same time I would probably never get anything done if I could lol.
        I agree, it’s definitely great to see kickass women in literature who can fight and hold their own but there really are so many different ways someone can be strong that, you’re right, it doesn’t have the same meaning twice. And it would be great for YA to expand that spectrum of strength more often and include things outside of the realm of fighting. Especially in fantasy because I feel that’s where it’s rarest to have a character who isn’t physically powerful. (Which I think I just got the best idea for a discussion… 🙈)

        Liked by 1 person

      10. It works better for me to only read one book at a time, and I have a lot of time to read so I’ happy with what I manage to get through in a day/week/month/year.
        I think “strong female character” has almost become a trope, and when you say it characters like Katniss or Tris come to mind from the really popular series, who make hard choices and sacrifice themselves for the greater good, which is good for them but there are so many varieties of female characters they shouldn’t all be compared to one or two, or lumped into the same label. We need more intelligent female characters who maybe aren’t so good at fighting.
        Ohh, I’m intrigued by this discussion and can’t wait to see it! 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      11. That’s exactly what I’ve been thinking! It is like it’s almost become a trope and before I really thought about it characters like Katniss and Tris did come to mind whenever I thought of “strong female characters” but now that I’m more aware of the fact that it’s becoming stereotypical, in a way, I’ve started trying to stay away from the term. Because characters really shouldn’t be lumped together like. Strength should be a relative aspect rather than something that’s defining because female characters don’t have to be strong to be strong and all of that. And we definitely need more who are intelligent but not so great at fighting. I’ll hopefully be writing it this weekend!! 😁

        Liked by 1 person

      12. It seems to be what other characters are compared to as well. There is a series I own and on the front cover there’s a sticker that says ‘Like Katniss, Like Tris, Love (character from this book)’ or something like that. I’m not a fan of that because they’re not similar characters in terms of their behaviour, they just are all labelled as ‘strong female characters’.
        Same here, from now on if I use the phase strong female characters it’s going to be because they are physically strong, and not just as a broad describing terms for any female character.
        Great, I’ll keep an eye out for it then! 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m so happy you enjoyed that one so much, Beth, and you’re SO lucky to have read an ARC of this. It’s one of my most anticipated releases of the year for sure. I’m even more impatient to read it now 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much Marie, it was a brilliant book and yeah a real anticipated release of mine for this year as well. 🙂
      I’m sure you’ll love this as much as I did, and I think it’ll have been worth the wait as well. I actually thought this book was even better than TWATD duology! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I skimmed this because I haven’t read it yet… but I’m glad to see that you enjoyed this! I am so undecided about whether to read this or not because I dnfed TWATD … so I’m not sure …

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Definitely a good plan, it’s better to go into books blind and end up surprised and amazing by them! 😀
      Thanks so much Lauren, and I’d recommend giving this book a try, even if you didn’t enjoy TWATD. You never know it may end up surprising you. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Wahhh so glad to hear how much you enjoyed this! The story had intrigued me since the first day I heard bout it. A rare retelling, it is! Really glad to hear something an Asian touch to it, I feel like YA needs more Asian protagonists nowadays, just to complete the diversity picture that YA has been striving for. 😛 This was a wonderful review, Beth! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, yes this was a brilliant book, and I’d recommend it. Especially if the story has intrigued you since you first heard about it. 🙂
      I’ve never actually read a Mulan retellings before this one, and I can’t say for sure because I’m not Asian but I felt it was a good representation of the culture as well.
      Thanks so much Lashaan! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much May. Oh that’s great to hear, and in that case I hope you end up enjoying FITM as much as I did! 😀
      She’s one of my favourite authors actually. Her first duology was amazing but I think this book is even better. 🙂


    1. Oh same here, this was one of my most anticipated releases so I’m glad I got an ARC of it. Yeah I got this from NetGalley, and got to keep it on my Kindle to. I still have all my eARCs on there.
      Thanks so much Stephanie, and that’s great to hear. I felt the same reading your review actually! 😀 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I wish I had been able to keep it!! I do have a friend who was going to save her Flame when she was done to trade, and it got knocked out of her hand and the cover ripped!! She’s going to send it to me so I can have a physical copy (she knows I want one) but it’s a travesty. I saw the pic. It was so so sad!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. It is nice having all my ARCs still on my Kindle, I go back and re-read parts of some of them sometimes! 🙂
        Oh god that sucks! It always hurts me somehow when I damage a book but I imagine it would be so much worse with ARCs. Still at least you get a copy out of it! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      3. That’s what I figure…a ripped copy is better than no copy at all!
        And yes, I feel like if I get a book, I should be able to keep it: otherwise I might as well just go to the library!

        Liked by 1 person

  9. I am yet to read any of Adieh’s novels, but all my friends are giving them at least four stars… your review is only adding to the need that is growing to collect her books and get to treading. Thanks for sharing – I hope I get as much enjoyment out of her book as you have. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh if you haven’t read any of Ahdieh’s book then you’re in for a real treat if you do decide to pick them up. I loved her first duology and Flame in the Mist is another brilliant story so I highly recommend them. 🙂
      That’s all right, and I really hope so as well. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

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