RATING: DIDN’T LIVE UP TO EXPECTATIONS (3) // AMAZON
PAGES: 393 PAGES | PUBLISHER: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
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.
I love looking at a cover after reading the book and finding hidden symbolism I wouldn’t have noticed before. I believe that the bird on the cover is a phoenix, which is the traitor shogun’s crest. Also the throwing stars play an interesting part in the book. I like the mash up of purple and orange, which unexpectedly complement each other. Also I love how the silver lettering looks like knives and swords.
I had SO MUCH hope for Flame in the Mist. This was a book that I spent hours researching and reading about, especially when I shouldn’t have, like during finals (whoops). It was supposed to be a mash up of Mulan and 47 Ronin, which sounds absolutely epic. Everyone was raving about it, including multiple bloggers I trust. Renee Ahdieh wrote it, whose work, The Wrath and the Dawn, I previously enjoyed. I mean, the book is set in feudal Japan! There aren’t many YA books that feature Asian main characters, much less Asian settings, so I was looking forward to the diversity offered in this book. Flame in the Mist had all the ingredients to be a recipe for success, but I over-hyped it in my mind and it sadly did not live up to my very high expectations.
I’m not saying that I didn’t enjoy the book. It was an alright read, but there just seemed to be something lacking. My main issue with Flame in the Mist was the hype surrounding the book that led to my exaggerated expectations. First off, I don’t believe the book should be compared to Mulan. Yes, there is cross-dressing in the book, but that’s where I believe the similarities end. Mulan took place in China and Flame in the Mist is set in Japan, and the storylines are completely different. I agree that the story could have been inspired by Mulan, but I believe comparing it to Mulan might lead to unrealistic expectations.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m the type of reader, who needs to connect with her characters to enjoy a book. I was expecting to fall head over heels for Mariko, but there seemed to be a bit of distance that I wasn’t be able to overcome throughout the book. Mariko seems like the typical character I would normally love—a smart girl who courageously decided to take her fate into her own hands despite the dangers. But, even after her acts of bravery and superior intelligence, I found it difficult to bond with her character. Although I’m having trouble pinpointing the root of my problem, it might have been that there was a lot of tell rather than show regarding her intelligence. As a reader, there was little insight onto what was actually going on in her mind during her brilliant breakthroughs, instead we just got to see the end result. This lack of character connection was a big letdown for me, since I find it so necessary when reading.
Although I had trouble connecting with Mariko, I really enjoyed reading about the side characters and wish we got some more time with them. I wanted to learn more about her relationship with her brother, Kenshin, and see them interact more. One of my favorite characters was the mysterious Okami, and I’m excited to learn more about him in future books.
I was expecting a lot more action due to the comparison to Mulan and 47 Ronin. Mariko isn’t so much a physical fighter as she is a master of mind games and strategy. Although there isn’t anything wrong with this type of fighter, I was expecting a lot more action throughout Flame in the Mist. The majority of the book moved at a slow pace to lead up to a big reveal at the end, but I wasn’t even that surprised. It didn’t have that “WOW” factor I’ve experienced with other surprise endings.
I really, really wanted to like Flame in the Mist, but I found all the parts that seemed so promising to be lacking. I did appreciate and enjoy the Japanese culture in the book and loved how there was a Japanese dictionary in the back. I thought the story was interesting, but there lacked the action and excitement I was expecting. I had a hard time connecting with the MC, who has all the qualities in a character that I usually love, but we just never clicked. I’m so sad that this didn’t turn out to be the amazing read that I was expecting, but it was still enjoyable. I believe many others will enjoy this feudal Japanese read with intriguing characters and politics as long as they don’t go into it with absurd expectations. Although it didn’t live up to my expectations, I’m still planning on picking up the second book.