Review – Flame in the Mist by Reneé Ahdieh

Title Flame in the Mist

Author Reneé Ahdieh

Description from Amazon

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 Black Clan and track 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.

Initial Thoughts

I had heard a lot about this book before I read it. As you may or may not know, I have been on a real Mulan-kick this year and rumor had it that this book had Mulan vibes. I also wanted to give this book a read because Reneé Ahdieh had a new book that just came out and I wanted to check out her other works.

Some Things I Liked

  • Setting and time period. I loved the Japanese culture woven into this story. Although, I would like to note, the fact that this story was set in Japan kind of negates the Mulan vibes. Mulan was from China.
  • POVs. I really liked that we got multiple POVs in this story. The change of scenes and POV kept me on my toes as a reader. It made the storyline very mysterious and engaging.

One Thing I Wasn’t Crazy About

  • So this is another Mulan-comparison criticism – I wasn’t a fan of how “useless” Mariko was. Mulan was a warrior and a fighter and she did what she had to for the sake of her family. Mariko was a fighter, yes. But, she was really just in self-preservation mode for most of the story.

Series Value

I will definitely read the next book in this series. I like the setting, characters, and plot of this story. Is it my favorite? No, but is it enjoyable, yes.

Final Thoughts

I really enjoyed Reneé Ahdieh’s writing style and I would definitely read her other works. I liked this book for it’s cultural references, plot, and character development. Besides the disguising herself as a boy element, I would not really consider this a Mulan retelling. But there are some parallels.


Recommendations for Further Reading

  • Defy by Sara B. Larson – if you liked the concept of a girl disguising herself as a boy to survive, check out this series by Sara B. Larson. Alex is much more capable than Mariko from the jump, but the stories are very similar.
  • The Magnolia Sword: A Ballad of Mulan by Sherry Thomas – if you are looking for an action packed Mulan retelling – give this book a try.
  • Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim – again, if you want Mulan vibes with an alternate setting and other cultures mixed in, do yourself a favor and read Spin the Dawn.

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