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.
First of all, if you haven’t read this book what are you doing with your life? I want you to drop what you’re doing and go out and buy this book. Immediately. Do you have it? Have you read it? Good. Now we can talk about the sheer brilliance of Flame in the Mist. Renee Ahdieh is one of those authors where I will blindly agree to read whatever they write because I know they will not let me down. Add that to the fact that this is a Mulan retelling and I’m completely sold. I mean, what could be better than having one of your favourite Disney movies retold in YA format? You can’t come up with an answer, can you? Exactly. But that’s not the only thing that makes this book brilliant.
- Although this is a retelling of Mulan, Ahdieh clearly made this story her own. Sure, there’s the fact that it’s set in feudal Japan instead of China and the main character was supposed to marry the emperor’s son instead of fighting in a war, which makes you say “hey! This isn’t like Mulan at all!” That’s the point. It’s a retelling. The main character still dressed like a boy and still learned how to fight, but she did it in a way that separates her story from Mulan’s story. To me, that says a lot about Ahdieh as a writer.
- The main character, Mariko, is the YA hero we all deserve. She is smart, cunning, inventive, loyal, and completely yet wonderfully odd. Her upbringing has caused her to believe that she has no purpose when compared to a man (gotta love history!) and you just want to grab her shoulders and shake her while yelling “you can do everything a boy can do!” But you’ll see her unlearn that, don’t you worry. This is probably the first time a main character has never frustrated me, and that says A LOT.
- The romance. Oh boy, the romance. When you first meet the love interest you think “wait, she’s gonna fall in love with him?” which quickly becomes “SHE’S GONNA FALL IN LOVE WITH HIM” and then you wish for death to take you because you cannot handle the tension between the two. And it’s not a romance that feels out of place either. It’s integral to the story in more ways than one and sets off insane plot twists. If you liked how Ahdieh wrote the romance between Shazi and Khalid in The Wrath and the Dawn (which is a masterpiece) you’re gonna love this one too. They’re magic to each other, ok?
- ALL. THE. SONG. REFERENCES. Listen, I’m not saying Renee Ahdieh set out to deliberately include references and homages to the Mulan soundtrack…..but you also can’t prove me wrong so this is what I’m going with. I mean, come on, I’m supposed to believe that the quote above ISN’T a reference to “I’ll Make a Man Out of You”? There are references to a bunch of plot points too but the songs are what I care about.
- While I usually love multiple POVs, there were some where I kinda just sat there going “was this really necessary?” Ok, I guess they were necessary to the overall plot because of backstory and all that jazz, but I think I would’ve rather seen some of Kenshin’s chapters go to Okami, for example. On the other hand, some characters, like Okami (who, in my personal opinion, is WAY more important than Kenshin), I would’ve liked to have seen them have more chapters in their POV.
THE BOTTOM LINE
- This book will make you want to a) watch Mulan immediately or b) listen to the soundtrack on repeat for days. I recommend both. Trust me, if you love Mulan and you love YA, you will definitely love this book.
BONUS: how this book made me feel in a GIF
ABOUT THE BOOK
Title: Flame in the Mist (Flame in the Mist #1)
Author: Renee Ahdieh
Release Date: May 16, 2017
Pages: 393 (Hardcover)
What did you think of the book? Leave a comment below!