Title: Flame in the Mist (Flame in the Mist #1)
Author: Renée Ahdieh
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 2017 (May 16)
Genre: YA Fantasy, YA Retellings
**I received a copy of this book free from Penguin First to Read in exchange for an honest review**
This book has been one of the most anticipated reads of the year. So when I got approved for a copy of this, I was over the moon. I got approved for this book, A Million Junes, and The One Memory of Flora Banks. While I now have the other two books in physical form, this book is now gone from my library because you don’t get to keep your review books from First to Read: they expire. So I still love looking at this beautiful cover and I know I must eventually get my hands on a copy of this book for my library. Just look at it…
I think it deserves it.
This book has been considered a Mulan retelling. Honestly…I’ve never seen the movie. (Please don’t hurt me!)
Mulan came out in 1998, when I was a teen (I’m dating myself here). I wasn’t watching Disney movies; I was getting my learner’s permit and working my first job at Baskin Robbins. I never watched it but I knew the story: girl pretends to be boy to be warrior, or something like that. Figured there was a love story and eventually Disney would make a live-action remake, which I planned on watching at some point.
But after this book…I think I’m going to go get my Disney on and watch Mulan.
Ok, but let’s get into Flame in the Mist, because that’s what I do…so I won’t keep you in suspense any longer, lol.
Mariko is the daughter of a prominent family, a family that has now become even more prestigious because Mariko has been promised to Minamoto Raiden. Raiden is the Emperor’s son…not the son that will take the throne, but the son from his consort. Mariko will be taken care of the rest of her days and her family will rise in social status and wealth.
On the way to the palace, Mariko’s caravan is attacked by the notorious Black Clan, thieves and bandits that have apparently been hired to assassinate Mariko. She narrowly escapes after the bandits flee from the fire they started, and she stumbles into the woods to figure out what to do.
She realizes if she were to go to the palace now, after being attacked by the Black Clan and surviving, Mariko might be considered “damaged goods.” She also can’t go home; she would shame her family. After all, she is only a girl, and as one is thought of as property. Mariko decides she will go find the Black Clan and find out who ordered the assassination and why.
She cuts her hair. She changes her clothes. She knows her brother, once he discovers Mariko is alive, will come and try to find her. But Mariko isn’t ready to go back yet. She needs answers. She needs to find the Black Clan.
When she finds the Black Clan, she finds more than she bargained for. She knows they don’t trust her, but they (thinking she’s a boy) take her into the Clan. As she tries to understand these murderers, she learns about the leader, Ranmaru, and his closest confidant, Okami, the “wolf.” Okami, scarred and radiating an energy that can only be magic, doesn’t trust Mariko. He knows there’s something off with her. Is she a spy? Has she been sent to infiltrate and destroy them? Who is this mysterious “boy” that has joined the Clan?
In the meantime, Mariko is trying to figure out the Black Clan and its motives…the “gangsters” aren’t behaving the way she suspected. She is constantly afraid that someone will discover her true identity and kill her, but she needs answers. She needs to know why anyone would want her dead. What would they gain?
But why then does he make Mariko feel like her skin is alive when he is around? Why does she seek him out in a crowd?
Omg, yes! This book…it’s an instant classic. (I’m sure you’ll be able to tell already how I’ll be rating it). It’s rich in Japanese culture with the language and traditions…I already knew some information because I’m a big historical fiction fan, and I have read a lot of books set in Feudal Japan. But the emphasis on honor and moral codes, along with the ways of the bushīdo, make this an excellent story with new vocabulary and varying customs. The mythology in the woods and the practices in the geiko tea houses are all intricate pieces weaved through the story to create a world rich in fantasy AND history. And the masquerade of Mariko demonstrates how little power women had across the globe.
Though it ends on a mighty cliffhanger, I give Flame in the Mist ★★★★★ for classroom use. Or, translated into the “TeacherofYA” rating scale:
As Flame hasn’t technically been released, I’m assuming it’s not on Lexile.com for that reason. (I’d be surprised if they left this book off the website). I found nothing too inappropriate except for some conversation between the male characters regarding sex, but it’s all very tongue-in-cheek. It’s more of an “experience” with women conversation. All implied. I would recommend 13 and up because of that…and I also stress that the reader be more ambitious because of the writing style. The writing is a little different and the pacing slower…I would make sure the younger the reader, the more seasoned.
In case you haven’t figured it out yet, I obviously loved this book. I might as well cut to the chase and rate it. Right? Though I could discuss this book all day…and how frustrated I was when I got to the “end” of it because I’m now on the edge of my seat.
So I give Flame in the Mist ★★★★★. (Duh, right?)
You got give this one a try. It’s completely different than Ahdieh’s The Wrath & The Dawn but still had that otherworldly vibe. You feel transported to the time and place. Mariko and Shazi are completely different characters…Mariko is more calculated where Shazi was more hotheaded. Ahdieh really can create characters that do not repeat themselves. They are wholly original from her other books’ characters.
Are you reading Flame yet? Yes, it comes out May 16, so if you don’t have a copy, I hope you run out and grab one (there’s always the library!) and see for yourself how you feel towards Ahdieh’s take on Mulan.
And then let me know what you think. You may call me an idiot if you hate it. It’s ok…I’ll be strong.
(But you gotta love a girl that can kick butt, right?)