FLAME IN THE MIST
Written by Renee Ahdieh
Published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, May 16, 2017
My star rating: 3 stars
The only daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has always known she’d been raised for one purpose and one purpose only: to marry. Never mind her cunning, which rivals that of her twin brother, Kenshin, or her skills as an accomplished alchemist. Since Mariko was not born a boy, her fate was sealed the moment she drew her first breath.
So, at just seventeen years old, Mariko is sent to the imperial palace to meet her betrothed, a man she did not choose, for the very first time. But the journey is cut short when Mariko’s convoy is viciously attacked by the Black Clan, a dangerous group of bandits who’ve been hired to kill Mariko before she reaches the palace.
The lone survivor, Mariko narrowly escapes to the woods, where she plots her revenge. Dressed as a peasant boy, she sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan and hunt down those responsible for the target on her back. Once she’s within their ranks, though, Mariko finds for the first time she’s appreciated for her intellect and abilities. She even finds herself falling in love—a love that will force her to question everything she’s ever known about her family, her purpose, and her deepest desires.
At the beginning of last year I read The Wrath and the Dawn. I expected to like it but I ended up LOVING it and becoming obsessed with the story and the characters. Especially the characters! They were so complex and relatable! So when I found out about The Flame in the Mist I immediately put it on my wish list and counted the days to its release. It pains me more than I can put into words – I was severely underwhelmed with this one. But before I go into detail I must say that this was not a bad book! It’s one of those situations where “It’s not you, it’s me” applies. I honestly feel like I may not have been in the proper head space to appreciate this one. But then again there are a few others that agree with my points.
My first problem – the pace. The first 100 pages felt like torture! There was so much info dumping and just being thrown into this setting with these characters and still not having a clear picture as to what was going on. The writing was also lacking a bit for me. I missed the beautiful descriptions and flowing sentences from The Wrath and the Dawn. The writing just felt jagged, rushed and incomplete. Throughout this book I felt like things were being repeated and going in circles, never moving forward.
The second problem I had was what was described in the synopsis. In the first paragraph of the synopsis there was mention that she was “the daughter of a prominent samurai”, yet we never really had the chance to meet her family and learn of their background. We were just thrown into the fact that Mariko was set to be married to one of the Emperor’s sons and then she was off. I lacked the familial information to really bring me closer to Mariko and her current state of mind. Also in that first paragraph, it’s mentioned that she is an accomplished alchemist. Did I miss that completely?? We were given the impression that she was smart – and let me tell you I LOVED that!! I’m all for super tough and strong characters, but a character with a strong mind is so compelling!! I was waiting to see what she knew of alchemy and it was just thrown in as a side note when she was presented with certain things. I needed more elaboration as to how she learned what she did and how she practiced it.
The third problem – the romance. I literally got to a point in this book where I just closed it and resisted the urge to throw it. I’m sorry but to me the romance felt SO out of place!! In the Wrath and the Dawn there was a similar build up to romance. Shazi felt pure hatred for the Prince until he slowly tore down his walls and showed her his true self. There was a slow building of trust and friendship. But here, it was just hatred one minute and then the next she wanted to kiss him to make him silent. WHAT???!! Mariko’s affections were so sudden and without warning or cause. BUT – having said that, I really do enjoy reading a romantic relationship when it’s written by this author. She has such a way describing feelings and emotions. The dialogue between characters in a romantic relationship feels like liquid silk. Believe it or not, my favourite quote out of this book is in regards to the very relationship that annoyed me.
“I don’t care who you were. I only care who you are now. And that you are with me tonight.”
He turned toward her. “Always. In all ways”
So beautiful! Once I got over my initial anger at this romantic relationship and just took it for what it was, it was a joy to read. But I just feel like this book could have done without the romance or just been built up a bit better.
My last major problem with this book is the POV changes. It was mainly told from the perspective of the main character Mariko. But every so often we would get a perspective from her brother, the Emperor, or the Emperor’s wife or mistress. These POV changes were sporadic and spread so far apart. These small insights into these other characters weren’t long enough and didn’t offer enough information to the story to be incredibly useful. For me it sometimes only caused more confusion.
The last 100 pages were its redeemer. The action scenes were so well written and things finally started to come together. But I’m still not sure if I’m interested enough in the plot or the characters to continue with this series. I just finished it yesterday and I already forget most of the story. I won’t write it off but I won’t be running out to get it immediately.
I’m sorry Renee – The Wrath and the Dawn will still be one of my favourites!!
Have you read this book? Did you like it more than I did? I hope so!
Until next time, happy reading!