Like promised, a bookish post, in the form of a Book Talk! Yay!
Today’s book is Flame in the Mist by Renée Ahdieh.
You may have heard of Renée before. She is the author of the #1 New York Times bestselling novel The Wrath and the Dawn and The Rose and the Dagger. She is a quirky gal that lives in North Carolina with her husband and dog named Mushu. You can read more about her and upcoming projects on her website.
Now I was first introduced to Renée when my coworker recommended me The Wrath and the Dawn. Now, I know that’s another book for another Book Talk; but I will say that I was in awe of Renée’s writing and her ability to transport me to another dimension. Her character development was something that I could actually feel. I could see her characters grow and mature in my head, and this sucked me into the story even more.
Sigh, I love that book. So, as you can see I had high hopes for Flame in the Mist.
Before the initial release, statements were posted stating that this was a mix between Mulan and 47 Ronin. In my personal opinion, that’s a pretty good comparison. It does weigh more Mulan. This is due to the main character posing as a boy, fighting with a group of men, and falling in love.
Now, you probably want to know more, so let’s start from the beginning. The story begins with Mariko, the main character. We meet her in a carriage, being taken to the Prince for their arranged marriage. Mariko is from a privileged family, and was raised so she could be married off to better her father’s social standing within the community.
On the way to the arrangement the carriage is attacked by the Black Clan. Right away Mariko must use her knowledge to survive. She waits until everyone has left, sets the caravan on fire, and stages her death. Now she doesn’t have to marry the Prince.
There is a second point of view in this novel, Kenshin. Kenshin is Mariko’s brother, and he is also a samurai with the Dragon of Kai. We are first introduced to him when he comes to investigate his sister’s disappearance. Soon he realizes that Mariko is still alive and he must find her. The rest of the story is about Kenshin’s journey of tracking his sister.
Mariko’s journey begins when she finds herself posing as a boy and joining the Black Clan. She decides to earn their trust and then attack them when they least expect it. Mariko was raised to believe that these samurais are bad. This is because the are the enemies of her brother’s clan. After living with them she soon realizes they are not who they appear to be.
Now I said earlier that Renée’s last novels had AMAZING character development, and this one does not falter in that area. The deeper into Mariko’s story you get, the more this character evolves and grows. She grows mentally, realizing things she hadn’t before in her sheltered life. She also grows physically, learning to fight among the Black Clan.
When in the Black Clan Mariko is assigned a trainer, which is one of the clan’s leaders, Okami. Okami is hard on her, because he wants her to learn. These two have a love/hate relationship, but it’s so cute. There were moments where Okami feels a bit too much for this “boy” and he doesn’t know why. Which leads to you smiling to yourself because you’re saying, “Oh, I know why.”
Renée does a great job of creating strong female characters in diverse settings. This is something that is needed in today’s literary world. Renee understands that women can be strong without men, but also with men standing by their side. Even though there is romance in her novels, she does not let the main girl rely on the guy to save the day. Okami always pushes Mariko to do her best, and vice versa. There is definitely a “he for she” vibe going on.
Overall I didn’t feel like I got enough of Okami’s and Mariko’s relationship. But, that’s okay this is a duology and another book will be completing the series soon!
That is my only complaint. This book transports you to feudal Japan, and gives you a more realistic fell of Mulan. If you want a Disney princess story, this isn’t it. If you want to read about a girl that uses her mind as her weapon and is kick ass, this is for you.
If you have liked Renée’s other works you will absolutely love Flame in the Mist. If you haven’t read anything by her, still pick this up. It transports you, lets you become attached to the characters, and draws you into a captivating plot.
Also, have you seen my first Book Talk?