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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

ARC BOOK REVIEW: Flame in the Mist (#1) by Renee Ahdieh

Synopsis from Goodreads

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.
Expected publication: May 16th 2017 by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young
ISBN13: 9780399171635
Series: Flame in the Mist #1
Source: e-ARC via Netgalley

Review (4 Stars)

Although I have given this book 4 stars and I did enjoy reading this book, it was a bit disappointing. I read both of Ahdieh's other books (see my review of the first one here) and loved them (5 Stars all around) so i had high expectations of this book from my experience of her previous books, as well as i read somewhere that it had been inspired by Mulan. So I thought 'great author, amazing inspiration, what could go wrong?' but it just wasn't as wow as either her other books or what I was expecting. However, it wasn't all bad to here is my - mixed - thoughts:

This book starts by following Mariko on her way to marry the emperor's son when her escorts are killed and she flees for her life. In many ways in these first scenes Mariko comes across as quite a feeble and scared character as she is thrust into this difficult situation, however she is also a determined character who has awareness of the impacts of her situation. 

As well as Mariko's point of view (POV) some of the book is also told from her twin brothers POV as he searches for her. The first few chapters from his POV made me love him and his relationship with his sister. He had a way of being worried for her while also having faith in her cleverness and holding onto hope while everyone else had lost theirs. It's a shame that this worry, loss and protectiveness in his character seem to twist him into a completely different person though this book.

There was a -what i would call a - "character dump" where a large number of characters are suddenly introduced. I found this a bit confusing at the point in which all these guys were suddenly playing a vital part in the plot, however after a scene or two I finally cottoned onto who was who. Once i had got over this it was interesting to see the different personalities of the Black Clan members and loved the verbal sparing between our main character and Okami (AKA The Wolf). We also got a good old fashioned love-hate romantic relationship in this book which i can't flaw Ahdieh for putting in because I love this trope.

I (as well as the slightly less informed) main character spent this book trying to uncover who the "villain" is who ordered Mariko's death, something I thought I had sussed out but after a twist late in the book I am now not sure. This book leaves us what feels a lot like a cliffhanger with a world in upheaval and unknown consequences which i look forward to reading about in the next book.

Overall, I enjoyed this book, it was a bit of a mix between Mulan and Robin Hood. It just didn't have anything amazing about it to make it stand out for me.