As I’m writing this review, I’m thinking to myself, how it must be a tall order for an author to write a story of different race and culture other than their own. You must really abandon your “own voice” to breathe life and authenticity into your character’s voice. And with Flame in the Mist, I think Miss Ahdieh created something really special. A brilliant and authentic tale of lies, love, and good ‘ole fantasy.
Set in feudal Japan, the story follows Hattori Mariko, the daughter of a prominent samurai, who is promised to the emperor’s son, Minamoto Raiden. But en route to the imperial city of Inako, she narrowly escapes an ambush by a dangerous gang of bandits known as the Black Clan, who she she learns has been hired to kill her before she reaches the palace. Devising a plan to infiltrate the ranks of the Black Clan, she disguises herself as a peasant boy and earns the trust of the clan’s leader, rebel ronin Takeda Ranmaru, and his best friend, Okami.
First of all, kudos to Miss Ahdieh for setting up a rich historical backdrop. Going into the book, I wasn’t sure how much of feudal Japan I was going to see, but thankfully, it wasn’t a mere plot device. There was actual talk of feudal lords and land properties, and the best thing is it wove around the lives of the characters, making for some interesting developments. The inner history nerd in me is delighted.
But Mariko knew it was time to do more. Time to be more. She would not die a coward. Mariko was the daughter of a samurai. The sister of the Dragon of Kai. But more than that, she still held power over her decisions. For at least this one last day. She would face her enemy. And die with honor.
Can we talk about how Hattori Mariko is such an awesome lead? Besides her being badass and all that, she’s exceptionally cunning. She had some of the best comebacks in the book (out of the many banter with other characters), and it’s characters like her that I really enjoy reading about. Reminds me of Nikolai Lantsov from the Grisha a bit hihi. I also liked her decision-making process as if it were a chess game, thinking three moves ahead the enemy. Though there were multiple instances where it backfired, it made for great character development. Because that’s what matters at the end of the day, right?
Let’s also talk about the wonderful side characters! Starting off with Okami or the Wolf, as he is called by some of the clan. I love his character. His constant bickering with Mariko is one of the highlights of the book, to be honest. There’s also the other members of the clan: Ranmaru, who I felt deserved more screen time because he is witty af; Yoshi, the clan’s cook and sage, as I like to call him, because he had some of the quotable lines ever.
I should also note that the book is told in third-person, and besides Mariko’s point-of-view, we also get to see from the eyes of some characters albeit rather cloudy. I found that it made things more interesting especially the last chapter.
Be as swift as the wind. As silent as the forest. As fierce as the fire. As unshakeable as the mountain.
Lastly, let me talk about how the ending totally left me hanging from a cliff. I must have looked insane whilst going through the last chapters of the book. So. Much. Revelations. UGH. You just have to read it for yourself to see what these revelations are.
Overall, this book blew me away in all possible directions. Though I knew I was in for a whirlwind read, I didn’t expect the winds to completely carry me away. This is also my first book by Ahdieh, and so far, so good! I know there’s already a lot of hype surrounding this book, but take it from me when I say that: it’s worth it.
An Advanced Reader’s Copy was sent to me in exchange for a review. All thoughts are my own. Quotes may be subject to change in the finished copy.