***I was given this ARC at TXLA this year, and this is my honest spoiler free review.***
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 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.
4.5/ 5 stars! I love everything Ahdieh writes. Her books are rich with culture so they’re perfect for diverse readers. The only thing I struggled with in Flame in the Mist, was some of the Japanese language she incorporated. There’s to be a glossary included in the completed books but I received an Advanced Reader Copy so the glossary and all the extra stuff in the end was not printed yet. I had to google several different terms but that’s okay, it was interesting to learn about feudal Japan! I can’t say that I’ve read many books set in that time period and culture.
That’s the second thing that caught my attention about this book. The number 1 thing that caught my attention that it was of course written by Renee Ahdieh and I loved her other duology The Wrath & The Dawn and The Rose & The Dagger, a retelling of 1,001 Nights (Arabian Nights). Reason number 2 I was intrigued was because Mulan has always been my favorite Disney Princess. I was stoked right when I found out about this retelling! Mulan is so kick-ass. I really enjoyed all of the parallels between the two. It is it’s own story of course. Mariko is very similar to Mulan but their journey’s are different.
For one, Mariko is almost assassinated on her way to marry her betrothed and her twin brother sets out to hunt her down and bring her home. In Mulan, Mulan’s father is drafted to fight the Hun. And if I’m not mistaken, I’m pretty sure Mulan is Chinese not Japanese. In Mulan, she does not have a twin brother. Just the dragon that mistakenly gets sent to protect her, Mushu and the lucky cricket her grandmother gives her when she tests to become a bride.
However, there are some parallels such as they both infiltrate a camp full of men, where women are not allowed. The punishment of being found out is death. I also noticed that the fashion seemed very similar between the two. Mariko and Mulan both had to chop off their hair in order to fit into a top knot.
Both stories had fantasy elements in them. They both had romance in the storyline. And there was a scene in both where both Mariko and Mulan almost get found out in a hot spring while they’re bathing.
I would also have to say that the themes in both are similar even if their storylines are not. Mulan was trying to protect her handicapped father from having to go off and fight again and Mariko was trying to find out who had tried to take revenge on her and her family. Mariko and her brother both slowly start to figure out that their father is not the best of men, but they both want to protect their family at all costs. Especially each other.
I don’t want to give too much away before the book comes out so I’ll leave my review right there. I will say I am very excited to get my hands on the next one though. I haven’t heard if it will be a series or another duology from Ahdieh but I’m excited either way! I want to know what becomes of Mariko and Okami’s fate.
And here’s a picture of all the books my mom snagged at TXLA 2017. And guess who got first pick? ;]