I would like to thank Hachette Books Australia for sending me a review copy of Flame in the Mist by Renée Adhieh, which is one of the most anticipated YA novels of 2017. I have to say I was expecting a brilliantly crafted story after hearing numerous praises about Adhieh’s The Wrath and the Dawn. Have you read it? Anyways, my point is that Flame in the Mist is a novel with very great potential, but there were many elements that I think could be improved to better suit the world and culture that the author is trying to put-forth. Read on if you wanna know my thoughts on this book.
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 Black Clan and track 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.
My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Publication Date: May 16 2017
RRP: $19.99 AUD
Look, I’m going to be honest, I LOVE the idea of the plot – and obviously: the stunning cover *drool*. I really would have rated it 4-stars if I didn’t find myself wanting to finish this asap just so I can start another book. There were also a few flaws that I found confusing which I’ll elaborate on later.
I LOVE Japanese culture: I’m obsessed with the clothing, the food, the politeness, the buildings, their speech, their art, their pop-culture, manga and ANIME!!!! (I am obsessed with a Samurai anime known as Hakuouki – check that out if you’re a anime nut like I am). By the look on things – I should love this book right?
The protagonist, Mariko, was likeable at the first half of the book: tough, quick-thinker and hopeful. Then she just became “Oh I’m friends with these guys now but I also want my brother to be safe, but I quite like it here, but I miss my family too, *sign*”. I got quite tired of hearing all these words of wisdom and “logical decisions” bubbling out of her mouth – some lines and ideas were very repetitive and I had to low-key try not to bang my head on the table thinking, “dude, stop repeating yourself, and over-thinking sh*t and maybe actually do something instead of sitting duck while people are hurting?” I don’t know why there are reviews claiming Mariko as some kind of genius – when the whole problem could be resolved if she just for goodness sake – SPEAK UP? (but then we won’t have the book so I guess this isn’t a point, but still) You know when characters piss you off so much that you just shake your head? Yes, there you go, now you get me.
Second thing: the way people communicate and their status. We know that Mariko is from a very wealthy family and basically has everyone at her beck and call. The fact that she didn’t get discovered as a girl thanks to the way she speaks, is unreal – because Japanese girl talks so differently compared to boys (i.e. “watashi-” for girls, “boku-/ore-” for boys). Especially when she’s practically nearly royal – I doubt she was trained to speak like a boy at any stage of her life. Anyways, that’s just my extra knowledge thanks to years of anime watching.
The romance: it was kind of “barely-there” for me – I didn’t really feel it until it hits me in the face. It was quite cute though if I’m going to be honest. When the said males starts to have weird feelings toward her (when she was dressed as a boy), it was actually funny because I’m trash for unspoken feelings and frustration/pain a crush can cause a boy – to make the heartless male finally feel things. Anyways, I have to say the romance developed too fast and I just didn’t like the way it did – especially for that time period in Japan, and especially when the culture and relationships norms are very different to today’s time (I learnt about this at school because I’m Asian). Even I, myself, a person who has read too many manga and watched too many seasons of anime, find the romance latched on way too fast. Perhaps it was that one or two scenes that really bugged me. But I can’t say more otherwise it’s a spoiler. But nonetheless, it’s okay.
Let’s talk about Kenshin, Mariko’s brother, he was the kind of brother that believe in his siblings and actually know her and is very protective of Mariko. I wish I got to find out more about their childhood and relationships with each other, there are scenes about their childhood – but I wanted more. I found myself liking the secondary characters a lot. I like how they each play small but important roles in the story and not just as “fillers”.
The feminism aspect. *pheeeewww*. Look, I’m gonna say they way she keeps on quoting words of wisdom and proverbs in her head and winning about crap ANNOYED me so much. There are some good ones here and there, but by the time I got to them, I just got tired of them – the ideas are to repetitive. So I kind of had to turn a blind eye to them (and sometimes to the romance as well).
The world building was good and authentic (surroundings and place wise), the FOOD was described in vivid detailed. The smell, the sounds – the techniques were great! The writing is beautiful. If only the plot was developed a bit differently. Oh and the fantasy genre was really forced into this book, however I know for certain there’s gonna be heaps more of fantasy/paranormal stuff that happens in the next book – because there were so many things unexplained and confused me so much at times.
Basically, I would recommend it if you like The Wrath and the Dawn. If you like that one, this one should be good too. I truly did wish I enjoy this a lot more, I’ve been really looking forward to read it but oh well. I know that a lot of people LOVE this book, so putting my own thoughts aside – I’ll definitely recommend it if you are into Samurai, mystic forest and the girl-dressed-as-a-boy troupe (*cough* Ouran High School Host Club *cough*).
Hope you enjoy this review! Happy Reading! xx