Title: Flame in the Mist
Author: Renee Ahdieh
Series: Flame in the Mist, #1
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Release Date: May 18th 2017
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 goodreads.com
I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
My Thoughts On…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.