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Flame in the Mist

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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.

392 pages, Hardcover

First published May 16, 2017

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About the author

Renée Ahdieh

24 books17.5k followers
THE WRATH & THE DAWN and its sequel THE ROSE & THE DAGGER are available wherever books are sold.

FLAME IN THE MIST will be released on 5.16.17.

** Please note that requests for Advanced Reader Copies should be made through Penguin, and all other requests should be submitted through the author's website. **

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5 stars
13,249 (29%)
4 stars
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3 stars
9,720 (21%)
2 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 6,428 reviews
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,993 reviews298k followers
April 22, 2017
“Never forget, Sanada Takeo: in this forest, there is no place to hide.”


This book was just pure enjoyment from start to finish. Japanese mythology, samurai, crossdressing female warriors, secrets, lies AND just the right amount of sexiness. Sure, it's not a perfect book, but somewhere along the way I forgot to care.

Flame in the Mist is set in feudal Japan. I keep seeing "Mulan retelling" floating around, but even if you ignore the fact that this is set in Japan, not China, it's a bit of a stretch. Mariko doesn't go to war, for herself or for anyone else. She is travelling to the imperial city of Inako when her litter is attacked by a gang known as "The Black Clan".

Mariko survives the attack and devises a plan to infiltrate The Black Clan, disguised as a boy. However, things don't turn out exactly how she hoped they would, and Mariko finds herself a prisoner-turned-reluctant-ally. Meanwhile, Mariko's brother and badass samurai soldier, Kenshin, is determined to prove his sister is still alive, and find the criminals responsible for the attack.

There's some bloodsucking Jubokko trees and forest spirits, plenty of action and bloodshed, even more secrets and betrayals. The more I read, the more I started to feel like no one is as they first seem, and everyone - from the emperor's royal consort to The Black Clan's leader Takeda Ranmaru - is hiding something.

For the most part, this book is far less romantic than Ahdieh's The Wrath & the Dawn. Which was fine by me. And the romance that did surface was... perfection. I won't spoil anything but I'll just say it's one of those rare occasions where I almost felt myself swooning. Look, there's just something sexy about the whole wolf thing, 'kay? Yes, I know, I have problems.
"A word of warning..." He bent closer. The scent of warm stone and wood smoke emanated form his skin.
Mariko blinked.
"Don't bare your neck to a wolf."

See what I mean? Problems.

All of the characters were interesting to me. All of them. Even side characters like Yumi, Ren and Yoshi added something important to the story. I especially loved the complexity of Kenshin's character - he is resourceful and cares deeply for his sister and Amaya, but is also a cruel warrior. I like multifaceted characters; it keeps things interesting. And I appreciated the author's decision to put the emphasis on Mariko's smarts over her strength. I like it when female heroines have skills that real world girls can relate to, and realistically aspire to.

Another general positive-- The use of setting was fantastic. Ahdieh captured the setting well in her previous novels, and she does it again here. I personally think many authors underestimate the atmospheric power of place. Things like this:
A city of a hundred arched bridges and a thousand cherry trees. A city of mud and sweat and sewage. A city of golden cranes and amber sunsets.
A city of secrets.

I did say this wasn't a perfect book, so I'll talk about the few negatives. Mariko makes some decisions throughout that were - to put it nicely - stupid. I didn't always understand why she did things. And would you really bring a potentially powerful weapon to a fight when you’d “never had an opportunity to test it”? For at least the first half of the book, I felt like Mariko's intelligence was all tell, no show. Though, admittedly, she did seem to show some ingenuity later on.

But, you know, whatever. I enjoyed this book so much. I’ve come to the conclusion that Ahdieh just has that special something that draws me in, that special storytelling charisma that you can’t get from a writing class. You can learn sentence structure; you can learn metaphor; but I don't think you can learn charm. And this author has all of the charm ♥

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Profile Image for Marie Lu.
Author 47 books134k followers
April 18, 2017
Renée has such an incredible knack for immersing me in her worlds--and Flame in the Mist is no exception. The world is lush, the characters absorbing, the atmosphere tense and romantic and awesome. Mariko! Mariko, my girl!!!! I loved her. I need more. Immediately.

Pre-order this asap.
Profile Image for Sabaa Tahir.
Author 22 books32.2k followers
March 20, 2017
How have I not reviewed this book? FLAME IN THE MIST is the first in a new series from Renee Ahdieh and it is FANTASTIC. I adored THE WRATH AND THE DAWN, of course, and thought the story wrapped up beautifully in THE ROSE AND THE DAGGER. But to be honest, no one can live up to smart, badass Shazi, right? Right?

Wrong, wrong, wrong. Mariko is a smart, brave, careful, flawed and incredibly original. I wanted to take her out of the book and get her to teach me alchemy. I want her and Shazi to meet and bond over all the crap they have to put up with. But Mariko isn't the only incredible character. From her twin brother Kenshin, to the Emperor, to the members of the black clan, all of the characters in this book are fully developed and deeply fascinating. I needs some novellas, pronto.

As in Renee's other books, you can expect incredible descriptions of food and clothing and people and scenery--all the lush writing that makes you feel like you are living the story. The research that went into this book was intense, and it shows. I genuinely felt like I had been dropped into Mariko's world. The pacing is non-stop--I tore through this. But my FAVORITE part of the book was the romance. Insert all the fire emojis here.

Pre-order it, get your hands on an ARC, trade a soul or two...it's worth it for this book. Renee, you can give me book 2 now, please.
Profile Image for Hailey (Hailey in Bookland).
614 reviews87.8k followers
July 30, 2017
This is a hard one to review for a few reasons. Namely, I have such mixed feelings. A lot of people were disappointed by this book because it was advertised as a Mulan retelling but it wasn't really a Mulan retelling, and while I see that complaint you can definitely see how it was Mulan inspired, which is what the author said it was. That aside, there were certain elements of this that I loved, especially the female empowerment, but the story as a whole was a bit of a let down. Truth is I was bored most of the time, I found it really hard to motivate myself to actually finish. I thought it was just me being too busy, but it took me 3 tries to actually get through it. So unfortunately, I don't see myself continuing with the series.
Profile Image for Elena May.
Author 13 books697 followers
February 16, 2020
Don’t get discouraged by my 3 stars. The book is enjoyable, and I’ll definitely read the sequel. However, if I compare it against books I’ve rated 4 stars, it doesn’t hold up.

But first, I have to say the premise is fantastic. Set in a fantasy version of feudal Japan? A girl, dressing like a boy to infiltrate a murderous gang and to spy on them? How much better could it possibly get?

There is a lot to like about our protagonist, Mariko. She has book smarts—inventing bombs and smoke grenades by using her chemistry knowledge and improvising with the limited materials she has—but when it comes to pursuing her goals and manipulating situations to her advantage, she makes quite a few messes and questionable decisions along the way. This all feels relatable and rings true given her upbringing and experience.

Unfortunately, the plot jumps too quickly and with no logic at certain points—Mariko going from fighting for her family to actively fighting against them in a heartbeat, the clan accepting Mariko at a point when it doesn’t make any sense, etc. We also see hints of magic, but the system is completely undeveloped and unexplained. Background characters are flat. Mariko’s father, for instance—all his lines about valuing profit more than human life felt almost cartoonish. Related to the same point, the whole criticism of the feudal system felt heavy-handed and simplistic, while there was a lot of potential for nuance.

I think nuance was the one thing I really missed in this book. Everything was too easy. All problems were resolved too cleanly. Everything was too black and white, almost like in a children’s book. Wouldn’t it have been more compelling if the Black Clan had really tried to assassinate Mariko, and she understood and accepted their reasons and found her place among them in spite of that? Or if Mariko’s fiancé had turned out to be a decent person, actually wanting to help her? Or at least halfway decent? As it is, there is no reason for internal conflict because all choices are way too easy. All problems come from misunderstandings, and once those are resolved, no conflict is left.

But in spite of its drawbacks, the book is a pleasant read and I’ll check out the second installment.
Profile Image for Simona B.
898 reviews3,008 followers
April 26, 2020
“You do have a flair for the dramatic.”

•Although The Wrath & the Dawn definitely did not make it into my all-time favourites list, the idea of giving a try to Flame in the Mist, inspired by Disney's Mulan (maybe the Disney movie I adore the most) and set in feudal Japan, still filled me with excitement. Sadly, however, I found that Ahdieh made once again many of the mistakes she'd made in her previous duology as well, and generally I noticed no, or very little, improvement. So let's see what we've got here.

•I truly must be a very strange person, because I firmly believe Ahdieh's much-loved and much-vaunted writing to be the main problem. As I said in my review of The Rose & the Dagger, Ahdieh tries so hard to be and sound poetical and melodious, that ultimately her narration can only come off as pretentiously high-sounding. I'm not referring to the little details, such as her choice of words and expressions, and if you take her sentences one by one, rest assured you'll find nothing wrong with them. It is when you put them all together, one after the other, when you read the book (but to get a clear enough idea even just one chapter will do) that they start feeling odd: absurdly overdramatic and inflated to a fault. I would find it boring and annoying even if it lasted for no more than a couple of pages, but here we have a whole book written like this from cover to cover, and I'll be honest, it's tiring -no, it's exhausting. It's exhausting because you're forced to be continuously on edge, to wonder what on earth is happening of such importance that the author is presenting it as if 1) the end of the world is near or 2) some character just found out the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything.
Practical made-up example of how even the most inconsequential events and facts have to be written according to Ahdieh. This is how she would write—well, basically everything, according to the data I've picked up after reading all three of her books.
Mariko glimpsed something on the ground. It glinted in the mud, the colour of burnt sugar.
She stopped on her tracks and leaned down a little, then some more. Closer.
She had to catch her breath; she picked the object up. So light.
So soft. She had found-
A leaf.
I've found a leaf.

When a reader stumbles upon a passage like this, he or she is led to believe the leaf is somehow functional, even fundamental, to the story. How do you think they'll feel when it becomes clear than it's actually not? The answer is, like a deflated balloon. And that is precisely the problem that Ahdieh's writing style creates, and which would not exist with a more sensible revision of the text: it raises expectations that have no place there and no hope to be fulfilled. I opted for inventing a brief example instead of selecting a quote from the book because, as I said, you won't find anything wrong on a microscopic level and nothing striking enough to make you understand what I mean that is brief enough to be quoted: it's the ultimate, wider effect you have to consider. And this effect is profoundly frustrating.

•My second complaint concerns the logic behind some of Mariko's decisions. Take the first one: she doesn't want dishonour to befall her family, so she runs into the woods to understand who is after her, even though one of the problems to returning home was "the question of [her] virtue" that would be raised by her being "lost in the forest, alone with murderers and thieves" for even a couple of hours. How is spending more hours is there going to help in saving her family's honour, that's beyond me. You see, the thing is, her choices sometimes are even the right ones, but her mental processes are all messed up. She gave me never-ending headaches.
Another instance of how her reasoning just doesn't stand up is, why does she never once . Odd.

Show-don't-tell who? There are few things I hate more that when authors don't follow this rule. We are told-and told-and told Mariko is so clever and curious and always outsmarts everyone, but if you had to count the times that actually happens you wouldn't get past... one, as far as I'm concerned. Moreover, Mariko stands out for being the inventor of the shuriken, of the grenade and of the smoke grenade. Okay...
In other words, she is so magnificent and clever, I just decided I'll call her Mary Sue 2.0. Because, you know, you can't not give a bonus point to the inventor of the shuriken.

In many respects, Flame in the Mist is awfully similar to The Wrath & the Dawn. Never mind the setting; I'm talking about more substantial elements. See if this rings a bell:
“And a part of her couldn’t help but think—were he another boy, in another time, in another place—Mariko would have liked to hear Ōkami’s laughter.
Would have enjoyed being the cause of it.
But he was a member of the Black Clan. The band of mercenaries who had tried to kill her. Who had slaughtered Chiyo and Nobutada.
She hated this boy and all he stood for.”

Sigh. Yes. I know.
I would have liked some meaningful variation on the theme, just saying. And instead the dynamics of the romance are comparable, up to a measure, to those in TWATD, and Mariko and Shazi have much in common as well, even though the author does try to differentiate them by portraying Mariko as more hesitant and insecure at the beginning. Since I didn't like Shazi, you understand why I wasn't able to empathize with Mariko either.

•Like in TWATD, there is magic playing peekaboo and completely devoid of contextualization: we have no clue as to what it actually is or where it comes from and it appears, like, two times in the whole book. And no one ever talks about it. Do they know it exist or do they think it's just part of the stories? Everything is so confused.

The Black Clan. Mariko keeps repeating they are terrible and cruel, but it's not as if anyone actually explains us why. Are they bandits, I suppose, since they live in the woods and all? Well, then couldn't you just say that? And did they exist before Ranmaru or did Ranmaru found them? What do they want, or what does Mariko think they want, in general, apart from killing her and all that's linked to that? Do they just rob people, normally, or what? And what have they done to deserve their reputation?
Reader, you will never know.

➽ I initially rounded up my rating to three stars, but after laying out all the things I found poorly done in the book, I see I'm not being honest. I've rated three stars some books that I've enjoyed far more, and, at the end of the day, I didn't enjoy Flame in the Mist. I am more than sure, however, that TWATD fans will love it, so if you enjoyed that duology, take this review as a "Go for it, you're in for a treat." On the other hand, if, like me, you didn't enjoy TWATD... welcome to the black sheep club. And don't worry, you can just skip this one.

A book partly based on Disney's Mulan...


...written by Renee Ahdieh.

YE-oh. Uhm, okay?

Still totally gonna read it. Mulan is one of my absolute favorite animated movies. Can't wait.
Profile Image for Emma Giordano.
316 reviews115k followers
August 5, 2017
Originally, I gave this book 5 stars after marathoning it in one day & loving it so much. After consideration and further discussion, I’m dropping my rating to 4 stars.

I did really love Flame In The Mist. The story was entertaining, had some thrilling scenes, and was all around really enjoyable. As always, I love Renee Adhieh’s writing. She has the most delectable prose that is unlike any other YA author out there. Once you get used to it, it’s very easy to get lost in her flowery writing style, and I always love that about her books.

I really loved Mariko as a main character. I especially liked how she’s not a typical Mary Sue – she’s an inexperienced fighter and struggles through training, like you would expect someone who has lived a privileged life to do. Though that does not mean she is not a TOTAL BADASS and definitely makes her way through tough moments her own way. I think she’s an admirable character and I really enjoyed her story arc.

Despite how much I enjoyed reading the story, I quickly realized I retained almost NOTHING about this world and where the storyline is going. Could it be because I read it so fast? Absolutely. But, this is a recurring theme with Rene Adhieh’s books for me. I love them so so much in the moment as I’m reading, and the next day I can’t remember any specific details. I don’t know if I can fully attribute that lack of retention to my fast reading because it’s happened to me with her past two books, physical and audiobook formats. I think it’s just a case of her ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL WRITING STYLE not always matching up with me as a reader.

I also wasn’t a huge fan of the romance. While I do enjoy the way the characters come to complement each other, I think their development was rushed. It felt as if there was no chemistry, and then nothing but chemistry after a certain course of events that just felt unnatural. I would have loved some more time for these characters to grow together as opposed to going from strangers/enemies to acquaintances to immediately lovers.

I feel similarly about the magic system, it was presented to in the beginning, but the ending EXPLODED with magic. I initially went into this story expecting a fictionalized feudal Japan and came out with a bit of a fantasy headache. I felt like I didn’t have enough time to grasp how the magic system works because all of the rules/future of the magic system was super saturated in the last handful of chapters. I wish it had been more spread out so that it could have been more easily comprehendible. More magic throughout the story also would have probably sped up a few of the slower scenes.

I also want to add a TW for suicide in the first 5 pages of the book. Given, it is a ritualistic suicide which some may view as different, but it's still very graphic and could be potentially triggering. Honestly, you could skip to page 6 or so and you would not have missed anything from the story at all.

Despite my small critiques, I really did enjoy this story. It was fun, enjoyable and had interesting character dynamics with beautiful writing. I would recommend it, but I do think you need to be in the mood for a high fantasy with lavish writing & stay really focused throughout. All in all, I’m anticipating book two!
Profile Image for Virginia Ronan ♥ Herondale ♥.
547 reviews34.7k followers
March 18, 2020
”Death follows indecision, like a twisted shadow.”

As it seems 2019 has officially become the year of retellings for me! And tell you what? I actually seem to like them! *lol* I never thought that I would enjoy retellings so much, but either I made really great book decisions this year or I picked the wrong retellings before. XD There’s no way to tell which one it might be but either way it’s a win-win situation for me. ;-)

”You’re the devil, Ōkami,” he muttered harshly.
The ghost boy eyed him askance. “You would know.” A grin curled up one side of his face, rendering the scar through his lips white. “Since we both came from hell.”

This said let’s get to the book now! I always loved Mulan and so it’s no surprise I instantly liked our heroine Mariko. I mean yes, she makes really stupid decisions sometimes but in general I could relate to her. I'm convinced we all make mistakes every now and then and she’s not only a very young but also a sheltered girl. Before her convoy got attacked she barely even saw the outside world and now that she’s forced to stay with the Black Clan it’s like she sees the real world for the very first time. Not everything is as white and black as everyone made her believe and even her own family shows a very different face if you see it from another perspective.

Mariko breathed deep. “Am I prisoner, or am I a servant?”
Ōkami paused before responding. “We choose what we are in any situation, be it a word or an idea.” With a small smile, he walked away.

And here are the discussions between Ōkami and Mariko I started to love. *lol* Those two are so very different but they work somehow. At first I wasn’t entirely sure who was supposed to be her love interest because honestly, Ranmaru had me intrigued from the very first moment he appeared in the book! But the longer I continued to read, the more it became obvious who would end up with whom. ;-P I’ve to admit that I liked both male MCs but for some reason I kind of liked Ranmaru more. Haha! Don’t ask me why, I guess he just peaked my curiosity and I love a good mystery. *lol* Also the way he acted, so calm and composed… He got me thinking and that’s always a good sign! He’s every inch the leader and he does a good job of it as well. Still, I’ve to admit that Ōkami had a certain appeal too. XD

”My life has been filled with death and lies and loose women.” Ōkami pushed back a fall of black hair, meeting her gaze. Holding her there. Rapt. “I regret everything else.” He smiled, his hooded, heavy-lidded eyes brimming with mockery.

Ranmaru’s broad lips spread into an easy smile. “I believe the stars align so that souls can find one another. Whether they are meant to be souls in love or souls in life remains to be seen.”

Seriously, those two boys couldn’t have been any more different but their friendship was amazing! They were like brothers and everyone who knows me; knows I love a good sibling rep! *lol* They might not have been family by blood but they certainly were in their hearts. ;-) Also I kind of enjoyed how everyone in the Black Clan was different and contributed a part to their community. Plus: Let’s not forget about the fantasy elements in here! The idea of the flesh eating trees gave me goose bumps and the forest that protected them was amazing! And if I’m already at it: I adored the ending!!! =)

”It was a mistake. All of it. For as long as she’d known him, Mariko had despised the very idea of this boy. But the truth of him?
The truth was not quite as simple. It was a silent entreaty. A wordless plea.”


This was such a great retelling! I mean it didn’t feel like a Mulan retelling because Ahdieh made so much more out of it, the basic points however were definitely there. ;-) Mixed up with a slow burn love story and the magical element this tale really had me captivated! I loved it from the very first chapter and I continued to love it until the end! The ending though! There were quite a lot of things I expected but others hit me so hard that I can’t help but be in awe of Ahdieh’s skills. XD So if you’re looking for a fast and nice read, I can totally recommend this to you. ;-)


What happens when a Slytherpuff and a Gryffindor (with Slytherin traits, Gryfferin?) decide to read a book together?

Well, they buddy read “Flame in the Mist”! ;-P
Because Mulan is awesome and if this is truly some sort of retelling, I’m so here for it.

So let’s do this and hopefully we’ll enjoy it!

Buddy read with this awesome Slytherpuff!
We’re sooo going to rock this! =)
Profile Image for Brittney ~ Reverie and Ink.
260 reviews4,947 followers
June 5, 2017
"The only power any man has over you is the power you give him."

Holy guacamole. This was wonderful.


Alright. I wasn't that into the first 30-40%. It wasn't bad at all, but I just wasn't really connecting. Mariko is on the way to her betrothed (the prince) when she gets attacked by who she believes is the Black Clan. She manages to escape (as told by the synopsis), but she refuses to return home and tell of her survival until she can figure out who paid the Black Clan to kill her. So, she infiltrates their camp and attempts to gain their trust.

Mariko has quite the aversion to men, being that men predominately rule in their society and women are left to please men. I totally get that, and Mariko was justified in feeling that way, but she does bring it up quite a lot. Almost too much, but whatever.

Anyway, about half way through, once we're into the Black Clan hideout, things start to get interesting. And they just keep getting better and better. I literally could not put it down past the 70% mark. Like holy wowza... SO GOOD. It was non stop, action packed, with so many fun turns. AND THE END AHHHHH WHAT DO I DO NOW?!?!

I TOTALLY GUESSED THE TWIST TOO. And I don't even care that I guessed it because it was so great. I was actually hoping I was right because just.. yes. So good.

Some of the highlights for me were:

1. Japanese inspired culture. Lush and gorgeous.
2. Okami. And he the fact that he has long hair.
3. Topknots.
4. The scene where Mariko falls from the... cliff thing.
5. Gorgeous quotes, like the following...

"A blossom can split through a rock, given enough time."

I did have a few small complaints - one being the magic system. It was really confusing and not really explained at all - no rules were mentioned and it seemed very random. I'm assuming this will be explained much more in the next book, but it was odd to me that it was so sporadic.

The only other thing was the writing- not that it was bad. It just felt a bit dry and hard to follow at times. I felt the same way about Ahdieh's other series too - 'The Wrath and the Dawn'. Whatever, the story here is amazing.

All in all, I totally recommend this. I'd read it again in a heartbeat.

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757 reviews2,349 followers
February 20, 2018
I knew it wasn't a good idea to read this book because I was told this is similar to The Wrath and the Dawn and *surprise* I wasn't a fan of that duology.

Reading this book felt like waiting for math class to just fuckign end. I couldn't wait to get this book over. I was literally counting down the pages till this fucking ended. I. JUST. WANTED. THIS. TO. END.

I finally learned true human suffering.

This actually wasn't that bad in the beginning except for Mariko's constant repetition of "I am brave and I won't be weak" like every two pages and the fact that the plot and romance were utter shit.

If I can go back in time to stop myself from reading, Iwould, in a heartbeat because ew, this was horrible.

※So what is this book about???
Mariko is a daughter of a samurai who is betrothed to the emperors son. While traveling to meet him, her carriage is attacked and everyone is killed by The Black Clan. But she survives!!!!! wow, oh my god!!! Instead of going to back to her family, she decides to disguise herself as a boy and hunt the Black Clan to plot her revenge and earn her honor!!

Sounds like a great idea!!!! If only it stayed as an amazing idea and not destroyed by being published in the form of this book!!!!

●First of all my dudes, Mariko was just fucking annoying. I get she wants to show her mama raised no coward, but like???? constantly repeating that shit for the first 50 or something pages, gets really annoying.

Hmmmm here's something wild, shut the fuck your mouth, glue that shit shut my dude, and actually do something that proves your bravery!!!

※Is the Black Clan supposed to be terrifying and "so bad" enough to make me piss my pants because ummmmm, I felt like I was reading about little kids trying to play warrior. They didn't come off as dangerous thieves to me. The Black Clan is perfectly summed up in this gif:


The plot was extremely slow and boring. I think it's because all that happens in this book is Mariko spying on The Black Clan and nothing actually happening until the last 10% of this book. I literally feel like I sat through math class where I'm staring at the bored and learning fucking nothing and should've just skipped that class because,, what's the point??

※I actually ended up liking Mariko a bit after she shut up about not being a coward, but then I wanted to choke her when she fell in lurveeee.


You said you won't let love stop you and I was promised you'd be a badass who won't melt for some dick, but???? the fuck, I'm suing for false advertisement because I got the opposite of what I expected!!!

She was supposed to slaughter the Black Clan, not fall in love with its leaders best friend and have a change of plans!!!!

I'm sorry, but what the actual fuck?

And,,, this shit brings me to the romance. *gags*
:You know that moment when your alarm wakes you up 6:30 a.m in the morning, but you decide to rest your eyes for a few more minutes and then, you wake up and it's 2069 and the aliens are attacking planet earth.

Guys, legit, I'm flipping through the pages of this book I'm reading the book and then all of a sudden they're kissing and wanting to fuck and I just cringe back, like, um yikes I liked it better when you wanted to murder Wolf boy.

Did I miss something, like did my eyes get momentarily hacked or some shit because bro, HOW IS THIS HAPPENING???????

The romance just blossomed out of nowhere???? I'm????? so confused???? And it's not even the kind you want to ship, I want this romance to die because it's fucking cringe.

Overall, I'm not impressed and just want my time back that was spent reading this trash.

And a 10000000x better book about Japanese mythology is definitely Red Winter. I totally recommend that book over this!!!!
Profile Image for Katerina.
422 reviews16.9k followers
September 22, 2017
So, let's get down to business.
To defeat the Huns

“In the beginning, there were two suns and two moons.”

In the feudal empire of Wa, a land humming legends of samurai and mythical demons hunting the woods, a woman's place is to obey her father, and later her husband, with no control over her future. Hattori Mariko, though, disagrees. Her curiosity is never satisfied and she questions, studies and learns, earning the reproach of her family, who, in an attempt to gain political favor, offers her as the bride of the emperor's son, trading her like merchandise. But the old gods have different plans, and when her convoy is attacked by the infamous Black Clan, a band of thieves and mercenaries, Mariko decides to pose as a boy and infiltrate their ranks, in order to discover who paid them to murder her before she destroys them, while her twin brother is frantically searching for her. What Mariko doesn't expect is the kinship she feels towards the Black Clan, their cunning yer straightforward leader and his best friend, the Wolf with the many secrets and the layers of indiferrence to cover them. Torn between her duty to her family and her loyalty to her new home, Mariko soon realizes that there are greater forces in play, and somehow an odd girl is in the middle of the storm.
“Rise from the ashes. And take your righteous place.”

As you can tell, Flame in the Mist is a Mulan retelling, and since Mulan is one of my favorite Disney movies, not reading it was not an option. Renee Ahdieh with her unparalleled talent wove intricately the empire of Wa, its lores and traditions inspired by medieval Japan, and her descriptions brought the pages to life; you experienced every smell and sound, you wanted to relish every dish and wear colourful kimonos, wield a katana and fight alongside black-clad boys thirsty for revenge and justice. The writing was lyrical, provoking a sweet melancholy that settled in your bones. The depiction of the code of honor and morals, and the struggle to abide by them were tangible. But, as discrepant as it may sound, there was something missing. Perhaps that restless and insatiable feeling is connected with the repetition of phrases and inner monologues. Perhaps it had to do with the characters, and the nagging thought that they needed more development. But the truth is that Flame in the Mist, while it ignited a spark of magic, it didn't engulf me in flames.
“Be as swift as the wind. As silent as the forest. As fierce as the fire. As unshakable as the mountain. And you can do anything.”

Mariko was a bit bland character. I admired her determination to matter, to survive and prove her value, but such determination could be tedious at times. She was smart and resourceful, but her lapses of judgement could turn fatal, and cause tragedies. I was more invested in the stories of the secondary characters, their ties to the fallen samurai and their plans to unravel their enemies, but I wanted something more. More time inside their head. More information about their past, and the betrayals that marked them. As for the romance?

To be honest, I rooted for a different love interest and that's the main reason it took me some time to digest the blooming relationship between Mariko and a certain character. There was poetry in their interactions, though, and bittersweet longing coated in lies and deceipt, and it eventually managed to warm my heart.
“The entire time she'd watched him - waited for him to join her, even in death - her features had remained serene. A flame in the mist.”

Why 4 stars, then?
Well, it's actually 3.5, and I did enjoy the book. It was beautiful, and the plot managed to captivate me until the final page, and the last chapters with their explosive twists fueled my hunger, my need to know what happens next. The way I see it, I possibly had very high expectations because I am familiar with the work of Renee Ahdieh, and while I wasn't disappointed, I wasn't blown away either.

You can find this review and more on BookNest!
Profile Image for jessica.
2,555 reviews35.7k followers
July 10, 2018
you know that feeling when you finish a book and just have to take a moment to appreciate that it was exactly what you needed to read at that particular moment? that is what im feeling right now. i feel so content.

i loved everything about this. the writing was classic ahdieh - stunning and poetic.

the characters, especially mariko, were so real. wow. i loved mariko. she was the embodiment of a strong female. i loved the lessons she learned - how to not only accept her place as a woman, but the strength and power she holds because of it.

i really enjoyed the plot. i know many people have compared this to mulan, and although there are some similarities, i wouldnt really consider this a retelling. this was its own unique story. i also loved the japanese culture and traditions present in this - it gave the story such a rich feel.

everything about this created such a remarkable and magical book. im so happy i waited to read this until the sequel was released, because i am desperate to continue the story!

4.5 stars
Profile Image for Warda.
1,209 reviews19.7k followers
June 19, 2018
4.5 flaming stars! 🌟

This was even better the 2nd time round.
When I initially read, I didn’t think I’d enjoy it. My expectations were low because I judged it purely on my dislike for The Wrath and the Dawn duology. Which is stupid, and I'm glad I was proven wrong, because I LOVED it.
Such captivating, Mulan inspired story, in a world which had an enchanting Japanese backdrop, where the writing was so gorgeous I wanted to lap it up, and had such a bad-ass main character, Mariko. I loved everything she stood for, determined on destroying patriarchy and finding a voice for herself.

There's a lot of groundwork that has been set up in order for the story to be built upon and develop in the next book and it makes me so damn excited to see where it's headed! 😍
March 19, 2022

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Did the people who read this book read a different book than the one I read? Because I did not get a romantic, action-packed adventure. I got a slow and plodding story with wooden characters and writing that was rife with purple prose. It wasn't even the fact that I went in with high expectations; despite the fact that Mulan is one of my favorite movies, I really did not like this author's other book, THE WRATH AND THE DAWN, and that was based off one of my favorite faerie tales. So I went in with extremely low expectations and somehow, FLAME IN THE MIST managed to be worse than TWatD. How does that happen?

Also, let's talk about the Mulan thing. I noticed people were saying that this book was a retelling of Mulan, and I wasn't sure if it was the publisher saying that or other reviewers saying that (because reviewers say a lot of things that publishers aren't and shouldn't be held responsible for), but when I went to the Penguin website, they appear to be blurbing the book as "Mulan meets Throne of Glass" and the author herself appears to be citing her love of the movie as an influence in writing this book in this Bustle interview. That made me give this book the side-eye, because Mulan is a legend from China and this is a book about Japan. China and Japan have totally different cultural legacies and at several points throughout history they have clashed in very unpleasant ways. It felt extraordinarily insensitive to me to brand a Chinese legend in new, Japanese packaging. To give a Western example, it would be like taking the struggles of the Scottish and rebranding them as English.

"Be as swift as the wind. As silent as the forest. As fierce as the fire. As unshakable as the mountain" (244).

I really don't like it when I feel like I'm being pandered to. Especially when it feels culturally insensitive. I'm sure that wasn't the author's intention, but I think that sometimes people forget that Disney stories are often based off actual folklore from actual people.

FLAME IN THE MIST is about a girl named Mariko who is the daughter of a samurai. She's on her way to be married to her betrothed, but her litter and attendants are slaughtered before she can reach her destination, and Mariko herself is saved only by sheer luck. She ends up lost and wondering, and after escaping a would-be rapist, decides to disguise herself as a boy. Lucky for her (again), because Mariko ends up in the camp of the very men who she believes were trying to kill her, a group of bandits called the Black Clan. She decides that she's going to gain their trust and learn their weaknesses so she can kill them in revenge, but this being a YA novel, she falls for the ringleader.

Mariko is no Mulan. She's one of those "strong" female characters who prove their "strength" by whining about how much it sucks to be a girl. She is constantly shooting off her mouth, even when she shouldn't (especially when she shouldn't), and of course her would-be enemies think this is so hilarious and endearing and are won over instead of gagging her and/or throwing her off a bridge. Also, the plot is very similar to WRATH OF THE DAWN in the sense that Mariko, like Sharzad, has a lot of reason to hate the leader, but never does, at least not without conviction, and gives into her lust way too quickly. Her emotions do not feel real - it's like she has an internal switch that flips whenever it's convenient for the plot, and also, what is going on with the plot of this story? It was so slow. I skimmed, and it still felt way too long. The writing does not help. Ahdieh makes an effort to write poetically, but instead it just feels blocky and convoluted and weird.

But the egg - that simple egg - was so wonderful. So perfect.

How could anyone who would take such care to prepare a simple egg truly be bad? (106)

Also, negative points for that line. Because apparently people can't be bad if they can cook eggs.

1 star
Profile Image for emi.
453 reviews1,088 followers
May 22, 2017
4/5 stars

"Be as swift as the wind. As silent as the forest. As fierce as the fire. As unshakable as the mountain."

You might be saying to yourself, “Wow? A review for Mist in the Flame? Didn’t you promise to post this three weeks ago?” Actually, you aren’t, but I’m going to pretend you actually care and are. Which I reply to you. Yes. I was. But I got lazy. It happens. But better late than never.

First just a huge thank you for Penguin Teen sending me an arc of this book. You guys are the coolest. If there’s any other arc you wanna send my way, please don’t hold back.

So now that I got all that out of the way. I just wanna say that this review isn't just a review. It's also my eulogy. Because this book actually killed me.

R.I.P Emi
June 1998-May 2017.
She died doing what she loves. Crying over fictional characters.

I've been dead for three weeks and y'all didn't even notice. Rude. But I'm gonna forgive you if you pick up this book and join me here in the afterlife.

This book is just so awesome? It makes me wanna run into the forest and join a group outlaws. Do they even exist anymore? Do they accept emotionally unstable introverts? If you like action, beautiful covers, girls who are better than you, and some other stuff, this book is just what you are looking for. It's also really informational? Before reading this, all I knew about Samurai is pretty much nothing and I learned so much about their history. obviously, I will never be an expert, but it's nice to read about a topic that isn't taught in schools very often.

The writing is also so beautiful. Renee Ahdieh is establishing herself as a very consistent author which is great and all but she's also incredibly gorgeous so I'm very much intimidated by her entire life. The Wrath & the Dawn is still higher on my favorites list then this one, but this was a great follow-up to that series.

So if you didn't know what this book is about. It's marketed as a Mulan meets 47 Ronin. I am unfamiliar on 47 Ronin, so I don't know how accurate that is. But the Mulan part. It's a pretty good comparison. However, if you are going into this book expecting the entire plot of Mulan conveyed using the English alphabet and paper, you are wrong. It's there, but this book is its own separate entity.

At the beginning of this book, Mariko, who's father is this big bad Samurai, is being sent off to marry some dude she doesn't love. Pretty stereotypical. But when she was traveling to go get married off, her party is attacked and everyone dies. But she manages to get away. Mariko figures that this group called the Black Clan was responsible because they wanted to kill her. So, instead of running the opposite direction like any sane person would, she disguises herself as a boy and goes undercover in the Black Clan to figure out why the hell they wanted to assassinate her.

I'll be honest. The first part of this book is kinda slow. There is just a lot of haning around, not doing much in the woods. But once you prevail into the last part, everything becomes worth it.

Let's talk characters. Shall we? It's been awhile since I finished this book, so I don't remember too many details. But I'll try.

Markio. Can I be her? I want to be her. She's better than you. My only complaint is that she's supposed to be like this mastermind with scientific stuff, but we don't get to see that a lot.

Okami. I wasn't paying any attention to his character, to be honest. I didn't think he would be important. Then Ahdieh went in a direction I didn't expect with him and I regretted barely giving him a second glance. Don't be me. Appreciate him throughout the entire novel.

Ranmaru. I'm gonna be honest with you. I kinda don't remember his character very much? He reminded me of Robin Hood though.

Kenshin. He's Markio brother and he's kind of an asshole. But I'm not really surprised. But I did really love how much he loved his sister?

In conclusion. This book is amazing and you should read it. Honestly, I don't know how you are reading this and just ignoring the beautiful cover. Except, is it a peacock or a phoenix on the cover? I just can't figure it out.
Profile Image for Nicole.
750 reviews1,937 followers
May 23, 2021
“I will not be bandied about by men any longer. I am not a prize to be bought or sold.”

actual rating: 3 1/2 stars

Rating Flame in the mist wasn't an easy decision. At first look, it's definitely 4 stars but then you start thinking and noticing imperfections and you realize the fun alone is not enough.
It had so much potential and I expected more (considering my love for Mulan & Japanese culture).

All her life, Mariko wanted to be something, more than just a noble's daughter. Life as a girl wasn't satisfying, especially now that she's betrothed to the emperor's son.
On her way to the capital, she escapes an ambush leaving her the only survivor. Therefore, she tries to infiltrate the Black Clan, her assassins, to discover their motives, she can't go back or she'll be a shame to her family. Dressed as a boy, she succeeds and meets Takeda Ranmaru, and his second-in-command, his best friend Okami. Soon, she discovers that the truth is way more complicated and starts questioning what she knew all her life.
Meanwhile, her twin Kenshin will do anything to retrieve his sister.

I enjoyed reading Flame in the Mist a lot. It was one of my most anticipated books in 2017. I wasn't a big of the Wrath and the Dawn but come on, this is set in Japan. And here's the thing, I'm obsessed about Japan, especially the Edo period. So this is a Mulan retelling (one of my favorite Disney movies), set in the old Japan times, and with a promising summary, what's there not love?

It doesn't stop there. While reading this book, there are so many Japanese elements I liked:
Samurais. I love Samurais (watched many anime about them) and oh, the heroine's brother is a Samurai named Kenshin. Seriously, that's so awesome.
✓ Japanese words.
So I didn't know about the glossary until I was done (it wasn't in my copy anyway), so make sure to not forget it. At first, it was cool when I recognized many words. It stopped being cool when they became too many. But hey, we always have google.
A demonic forest (with yokai, even if it's a myth, because what if it wasn't?).

“Our greatest enemy can often be found within.”

However, when I look more closely, I realize that no matter how much appreciate these things, it's not enough. There were many things I didn't like. At all. You'll notice btw a great amount of which reminds me in this review.

✔ She didn't annoy me (believe me, it's something). She was likable and I liked how she always wanted to be someone more than her society allowed her to.

✘ She sounds so badass and smartass. That's it. Sounds. We are told all the time how smart she is but like everyone already said, show instead of telling. Eventually, we get tired of hearing what a genius she is while taking illogical decisions. So she's making these super cool weapons... to the people who tried to kill her. She claims to make them trust her. But if she's so intelligent, she'll notice that she's helping more than hurting. . Don't get me wrong, I liked her but I just wanted cleverer actions on her part. Later, she starts repeating herself. We hear the same ideas all time. No, I shouldn't do that or I'll be a traitor and dozens of other similar words. It gets tiring. I also didn't understand if she can't go back because it'll be a shame, then why stay longer in the forest and try to discover your murders intentions? If she goes back, it'll be a bigger shame, right?

The love relationship:
✔ It was so cute. I don't mind hate to love relationships no matter how cliche they are. I also liked the love interest, no, not saying his name! The tension build up was so sexy that'll make you root for them. I hoped we had even less romance, though.

✘ It's so similar to the wrath and the dawn. The whole book is, for that matter. Sure, another setting but the events and characters are at the core the same. I should mention that I liked this more than the Wrath and the Dawn (wasn't a fan of Shazi in the first book). So I'm pretty sure the fans of her other duology will love this one. Now this one is a huge spoiler concerning the romance and the end so if you're planning on reading this book, please don't read it.

The writing:
✔ It's pretty, and easy to follow. Renee painted the picture in my mind leaving a space for my own imagination.

✘ It became too much sometimes, too many descriptions for obvious things. Even though I like the concept, we hear about the Furinkazan more than necessary (it doesn't make the book more Asian if it was repeated all the time, you know. Which is NOT even Jap).

Her past life.
✘ So she has a brother, a twin. We barely know anything about Mariko and Kenshin's relationship. How he treats, for example. Yeah, sure he was always protective and stuff. But is adding few memories too much? I'd liked to know more about her relationship with her family members. She only tells us that she's mistreated because a girl but never how. I was disappointed when then this topic was poorly handled. I also didn't like him much.

The secondary characters.
✔ One of the best things about this book! I liked to know more about them! Yoshi, Ren, Yumi, and everyone. It was nice to see her spending time with other people who had their own personalities, not just fillers. I also liked Kenshin and Amaya's relationship but wished more depth in his character.

✘ So we have a name, Okami. Aka Wolf. Ironically, I read Scarlet this week and the literal meaning of the word annoyed me then. Still annoying here.

The feminist aspect
✔ I liked how even in those hard times, she was trying to prove herself and value as a woman.

“I’ve never been angry to have been born a woman. There have been times I’ve been angry at how the world treats us, but I see being a woman as a challenge I must fight. Like being born under a stormy sky. Some people are lucky enough to be born on a bright summer’s day. Maybe we were born under clouds. No wind. No rain. Just a mountain of clouds we must climb each morning so that we may see the sun.”

Briefly, if you enjoyed TWATD, then I'm sure you'll like this one. If you didn't, well, I don't recommend it. It doesn't end with a cliffhanger, not a major one at least. I will be reading the sequel of course, even though this book had many problems, it's still set in Japan. It was also so fun. And oh, I don't think it's a Mulan retelling, only dressing up as a boy is a common thing.
This book was far from being perfect and it could've been better but I liked it.

1 review
May 18, 2017
To give you an understanding of where this review is coming from, I'm a 1st-generation Japanese-American, bisexual, and non-binary. I was really disappointed with this book. (And yes, I knew that the book wasn't really a Mulan retelling going into it, so my disappointment has nothing to do with the marketing. But the marketing was crap.)

1. There are a whole bunch of historical inaccuracies. And before you yell "But it's fantasy!" understand that this isn't an alternate Japan. It's historical Japan, with real historical people and places. The only thing that makes this fall under the fantasy genre is that there's a little magic thrown in, which btw Ms. Ahdieh doesn't explain at all. We don't ever learn how this magic system works, who all has magic and who doesn't, what the limits of the magic are, etc. But I'm getting off-topic. My point is, people who have no idea what they're talking about are praising this book for the historical research, and it's frustrating. Yeah Ms. Ahdieh learned some things about feudal Japan, but there's also a lot she messed up, everything from ridiculous character names to mentions of things that didn't exist in Japan until 100s of years later than when the story is set.

2. I could happily go 20 years without reading another book involving cross-dressing written by a cis author. These books almost never consider trans/non-binary people, and keep enforcing crappy binary norms all over their novels. I'm so sick of it. If you're trans/non-binary, be aware this book has a lot of parts that might hurt you. And before you yell "But it's historical!" go do some research because trans/non-binary people have existed everywhere all throughout history. Yes the language and culture is different from how it's treated in modern Japan or modern America, but you can write a historical book that challenges some ideas about the notion of a gender binary.

3. Besides trans/non-binary erasure, this book also has bi erasure. (None of Ms. Ahdieh's books have any LGBTQIAP+ characters to my knowledge, which is annoying, but that's just my personal opinion.) However, there's a part in this book where it makes no sense at all not to acknowledge bisexuality. This is a slight spoiler:

4. When will authors stop writing things like "tabi socks", "chai tea", etc.? Tabi are socks. When translated, you're basically saying "socks socks." It's obviously done to make certain westerners understand, but isn't it your job as a writer of historical fiction to convey ideas through context? You don't need to resort to this. Crap like this makes it clear the book isn't written for Japanese-Americans like me, who should be the first people you consider when writing a Japanese story in English. Related, I hate when "foreign" words are italicized in books. Especially when this is a Japanese character in Japan. These words aren't foreign to her, or to me. It's just another thing that tells me this book isn't written for Japanese people.

5. I know some people call Ms. Ahdieh's books feminist, but I don't really agree. I don't know if any of them even pass the Bechdel test. This book in particular has a cast of mostly men. There's one girl who does absolutely nothing in the story except exist for the lusty male gaze of the protagonist's brother, and then

I can't speak for all Japanese-American/bi/non-binary people, and I understand that others might have different opinions. But I personally can't recommend this book. I'm going to go search for a book by an LGBTQIAP+ Japanese author to cleanse me of these icky, uncomfortable, and hurt feelings I got from reading this book.
Profile Image for Reynita ★ The Night Reader ★.
123 reviews939 followers
June 6, 2018
EDIT : I reread this book and I still enjoyed it but not as much as the first time I read it. I used to give it 5 stars but I changed my mind and gave it 4 stars instead.

"If I am marching to my death, then I
will march to it as a girl. Without fear."

This book is about a girl named Hattori Mariko, whose convoy is attacked by the Black Clan, when she is on her way to the palace to meet her future husband, the future husband she does not choose and love. She is supposed to be dead but she survives and now, she wants revenge. She dresses as a boy and then she wants to find out who sent the Black Clan to kill her and why this person wants her dead.

My Opinion

OH MY GOD. I didn't expect this. I didn't expect I would love it this much. I didn't expect the pain that I would suffer when I finished reading it. I swear, I thought about this book a whole night, last night, because I just couldn't forget how amazing it was and how it caused me a great pain. I shed tears several times over the beautiful and powerful quotes in this book. The quotes are both beautiful, powerful and great at the same time and I found myself nodding and agreeing to these quotes. There are so many quotes that I love in this book and my copy is full of sticky notes. These are one of the quotes that I love :

"There is such strength in being a woman. But it is a strength
you must choose for yourself. No one can choose it for you.
We can bend the wind to our ear if we would only try."

Fear kept her alert. She would always let it feed her. Never
let it consume her.

and there are still so many more quotes that I love so much that I won't put them here, because you need to read the book to see these quotes. But believe me, the quotes are so beautiful and powerful.


The Plot

I LOVED THE PLOT. Honestly, I can't decide whether it's slow-paced or fast-paced. I mean, there are many things that happen in the book but when I finished the book, I felt it was so fast. But I also think it's slow-paced because I got the chance to know the secondary characters and the MC. Sorry if I'm being confusing hahahaha because I honestly can't decide about the pace of the book. for me, it felt both fast and slow paced.

AND THIS BOOK MADE ME LAUGH SO HARD. THAT RARELY HAPPENS. I cannot tell you the story because it might be spoiler and I don't want to spoil anyone, But I laughed several times while reading it. Most of the time, it's the banter between Mariko and Ōkami. They're just so funny and I can't help but laughing or grinning, when they bicker.


The Romance

"My heart knows
your heart. A heart doesn't care about good or bad, right or
wrong. A heart is always true."

I TOTALLY LOVED THE ROMANCE. THIS IS THE KIND OF ROMANCE THAT I LOVE TO READ. It is enemy-to-lover and for me, it didn't feel rushed or forced to happen. It was sweet and romantic and IT WAS SLOW BURN AND NO LOVE TRIANGLES. THIS IS THE KIND OF ROMANCE THAT I ALWAYS LOOK FOR IN BOOKS.

The MC and the love interest took time to know each other and they eventually developed feelings for each other and it happened slowly, not instantly and by the time I finished this book, I got these feelings that one day, I want to have a man that look at me and think about me the way the love interest look and think about Mariko. I just don't know what else I have to say about the romance, other than I loved it and I SHIP IT. I hope to see more of the love interest in the second book. I CANNOT WAIT TO READ IT. I HOPE THE SECOND BOOK WILL DESTROY ME.
I love to be destroyed by books.


The Characters

*inhales* *exhales* I COULD RELATE SO MUCH TO MARIKO. I swear, when I read this book and I felt like I was looking in the mirror, because I could relate to Mariko so much and Mariko was an amazing character. She was brave, fierce, strong, clever and determined. Look, even though I could relate to her very much. I wouldn't be as strong as she was. Maybe I would weep. Everything she had been through was beyond what I could bear and she was strong and fierce to deal with these problems. Honestly, I want to be just like her.


Basically everything that I have always looked for are all in this book and I am so glad that I read it. This book is beautiful and the quotes in this book are purely beautiful and powerful. I love them so much.

"I believe
the stars align so that souls can find one another. Whether they
are meant to be souls in love or souls in life remains to be seen."


Review to come today! All I can say now is, my heart is utterly severely broken.


I've been feeling sad and bitter for a few days because everything that I have read so far disappointed me. So I hope, it won't happen with this book. I REALLY NEED a book that leaves me in awe.
Profile Image for Natalie Monroe.
595 reviews3,587 followers
June 10, 2021
"It was a mistake. All of it. For as long as she'd known him, Mariko had despised the very idea of this boy.

But the truth of him?

The truth was not quite as simple. It was silent entreaty. A wordless plea."

Last time I offered a three-sentence summary of The Wrath and the Dawn. This time, I give you yet another short summary of Flame in the Mist:

Mariko: I'm going to dress up as a boy to infiltrate the Black Clan and find out why they sent people to assassinate me!

Okami: *works his chiseled cheekbones*

Mariko: Never mind

Seriously now, I do think the romance here is better than The Wrath and the Dawn. There are no weird Twilight comparisons and blissfully free of rapey undertones.

But boy, was it random. Okami does next to nothing to endear himself to Mariko, but she falls in love with him anyway. The premise is exactly like TWATD—girl infiltrates boy's home with the intention to kill him, then tumbles head over heels for him without sufficient justification. You'll notice I didn't say "fall." Because she doesn't so much fall as plunge headfirst at Mach 1.

This is a quote from right after she nearly drowns:

"Mariko had never thought she'd see so many naked feelings cross his finely chiseled face."

Girl nearly died, but ya know *whispers* chiseled. Okami also smells like warm stone and wood smoke, courtesy of Dior's newest cologne line.

Also like TWATD, Mariko is set up to be this fierce, intelligent, badass character, but fails spectacularly at the one task she's given. Mariko is an awful spy, alright? Halfway through the novel and all she's done is mentally swear revenge x10000 and throw a teapot at someone. Ahdieh may be going for a fish-out-of-water scenario here, where Mariko thrives in political power games, then realizes the same tactics can't be applied to the real world. But we aren't shown scenes where she dominates in those fields either. We're just told (over and over and over again, by her brother, by Okami) that she's smart and supposed to take it at face value even when all evidence suggests otherwise.

I'm still scratching my head over the decision Mariko makes that kicks everything off. After her progression is attacked by the Black Clan, Mariko decides to track down her assassins herself because returning home, battered and dirtied, will cause rumors about her reputation, thus, hurting her family. Did I miss a few steps? A) Why would a pampered girl raised within the security of palace walls think she can make it on her own and B) What exactly will catching the assassins prove? I understand her desiring to taste freedom, but it's a terrible life decision. Like climbing Mount Everest.

The writing doesn't help either. It's melodramatic and overflows with declarative fragments like, "She would murder them. She'd show them all." (I made that up; I'm too lazy to flip for a real quote.) Sentences like that appear all the time, without much variation in sentence structure. They're meant to be impactful—and they are in sensible amounts. Too much, and it feels tired and unoriginal. Ahdieh tends to overexternalize her characters' emotions as well. For instance, if a character is sad, it rains, that kind of thing. It occurs so often, it loses emotional impact. When everything from walking through a garden to murdering a man feels DEEP and MEANINGFUL, nothing is.

I rated this lower than TWATD, but I do think it's slightly better in terms of romance. I just couldn't think of a single good thing about it individually.

FYI, Dragon's Beard candy originates from China. Flame in the Mist is centered in feudal Japan. Just sayin'.
Profile Image for ♛ may.
806 reviews3,838 followers
May 30, 2017

It seems I hold the unpopular opinion in regards to this book. While all my friends complain, I’m sitting here like ??? it was epic, where were you???


#1 First off, the fact that Renee wrote this book is an instant 10 point. She absolutely slayed me with The Wrath and the Dawn ((I love Khalid sm, my sweet child)) and while there are many parallels that can be linked between the two books, I found this one to have such a passionate charm.

#2 The writing is absolutely magnificent. It’s colourful and exquisite and contains Japanese idioms that just really make it feel so so so so well developed. At first, I will admit, I found it hard to remember each and every character, since there were a lot introduced initially, but I got the hang of it and then I was burning through the book without a second thought.


#4 is the love of my life. Okay, okay, I know the whole romance build up was kind of sudden but who the hell cares, its beautiful and intense and heated and just I loved it so much

#5 I love how the story was build and developed over a long arc of time. We really got to see the character’s in their day-to-day lives

#6 Kenshin was one of my favs in the beginning but then he was pissing me off left and right but then Amaya was introduced and I was like FRICKEN HELL I MUST. SHIP.

#7 Lots of plot twists that had me like BOI EXPLAIN THIS IM GOING CRAZY WITH MY THEORIES

#8 I thought the book was super bada*s and I loved the whole warrior thing and it was just awesome man.

#9 I need book 2 right now please, Renee please its my last wish.



“Be as swift as the wind. As silent as the forest. As fierce as the fire. As unshakable as the mountain. And you can do anything...”

4 stars!!


i'm so fricken stoked for this book, honestly, if it disappoints i will end 2017 ((also i know NOTHING about mulan PUT YOUR PITCHFORKS DOWN im going to go research the hell out of it rn))

Buddy read with the squad, Jia & Charlotte & Aaron & fake buddy reading with Prag & Amy
Profile Image for Stacee.
2,740 reviews711 followers
April 7, 2017
Renée is an auto buy for me, so after screaming, I immediately downloaded this and started it.

I love Mariko right from the beginning. She's so smart and so strong, but she's unaware of her abilities. It was delightful to see her figure out her potential and place in the world. The members of the Black Clan are interesting and quite the enigma. I loved seeing their truths revealed.

I did struggle with the names and that is my main complaint. Each character seemed to have several nicknames, official names and titles and they were all thrown around. Often in the same paragraph. Eventually I sort of gave up trying to keep people straight.

The plot is a bit of a slow burn, but it's captivating. I was sucked in right from the start. The ending is enraging and satisfying and I can't even wait to see what happens next.

**Huge thanks to GP Putnam's Sons and Edelweiss for providing the arc free of charge**
Profile Image for Nastassja.
423 reviews1,014 followers
March 16, 2019

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

“I’ve never been angry to have been born a woman. There have been times I’ve been angry at how the world treats us, but I see being a woman as a challenge I must fight. Like being born under a stormy sky. Some people are lucky enough to be born on a bright summer’s day. Maybe we were born under clouds. No wind. No rain. Just a mountain of clouds we must climb each morning so that we may see the sun.”

I was hesitant to read Flame in the Mist after a total miss-miss The Wrath & the Dawn was for me, so take to consideration that if you read and enjoyed the aforementioned TWATD, there's a very big chance you'll enjoy FITM as much or maybe even more.

This book follows a story of seventeen years old Mariko, whose life is suffocating her with rules and confines of being a proper lady, meant for only one purpose: to be a prize sold into a political marriage that will benefit her father. So when on her way to her future husbands, Mariko is almost killed and is presumed dead for the rest of the world, she seizes the opportunity to finally become her own person and follows her dreams. Many of you already know, this book is a loose retelling of Mulan, featuring a strong-minded heroine and her adventures in feudal Japan. Japanese culture is, alas, a rare guest in YA literature these days, and one of the reasons I was willing to give Renee Ahdieh another chance was this unique setting, and, plus, you know, who can say no to Mulan, right? I must say, to the extent of my knowledge, which is really not big, and judging by the feelings I had during the reading process, I absolutely loved the setting in this book. It really felt like I was reading a book about Japanese culture and had this ghostly feeling of being present in a world of samurais and ronins; I felt bushido – the way of the warrior - the heroine and other characters were following.
Side note: I would recommend to look into the glossary at the end of the book before you start reading. There's a lot of Japanese terms in the book that will make it easier if you acknowledge yourself with them beforehand.

The first 30% or so of the book were perfect for me: I liked everything about it; I admired and almost loved Mariko as our main character: her resolve to act, to rise above her stand, which was a hard task for a woman at the time, was admirable. And Mariko used her brains and wisdom to fight her way in the world of men dominance. She wasn’t perfect, she made mistakes, but imperfect is what means to be human. Funny thing, though, is the more I read the more repetitive everything Mariko did became. It felt like she stuck in her character development at one point, and there was nothing to show any progress, only the author’s desperate attempt to justify Mariko by telling to us how smart and sly she is, how she outsmarted everyone, and how everyone was nodding in confirmation of Mariko’s genius, but 'tell, don’t show' is not the best way of moving your character development. Readers need facts to believe, and the book demonstrated the opposite of author’s words. For example, almost everything Mariko did when she got to the Black Clan (Rebels) was forgiven or oversight: Black Clan executed people for less than what Mariko was given a free pass for. And why? Because she’s a mysterious new recruit? Or because she’s so special? Special snowflake alert someone?! Or sometimes the logic behind her actions was so lame, you couldn’t understand how did this happen if even a child could’ve predicted the outcome Mariko couldn’t see
He was smart, despite his age. Exceedingly watchful. A trait Mariko prized in herself.

Um, no Mariko, bragging about how genius you are is a way to becoming an egotistical schmoe.

Alas, I must admit that there was not enough depth to the main character to make me fully sympathize with and respect her. Secondary characters, though, they were more interesting than Mariko. Remember three mysterious book boyfriends I mentioned in my updates? Yes, Okami, Kenshin and Ranmaru are their names. Though they had less book space than Mariko did, I found myself following their stories with much more interest that I did with the heroine. I don’t want to reveal who was Mariko’s love interest, because it is kind of a surprise, but I'll mention Kenshin - Mariko’s brother. I was looking forward to siblings’ relationship, which is one of my favorite topics in books because I have a brother and can totally relate to conflicts between siblings. Alas, in this book there wasn’t enough ground to note something remarkable about Mariko and Kenshin’s relationship. They barely share one scene, and in the whole book, there was little mentioning of their ‘before’ relationship. Despite often sounding wise and telling the right thing, characters lacked some integral depth that would make them more endearing for a reader like me.

The other major problem I had with this book is the romance. I don’t know what it is about Renee Ahdieh’s writing, but the way she outlines the romantic relationship between the main characters is very cliché-like and oppressive. What I mean is she seems to always follow the same pattern in her books: from enemies to lovers, where characters start strong and independent, but the more time they spend in the near proximity to their romantic interest, the clingier they become. In this book, Mariko had a solid mission. Quoting: Follow orders. Engender trust. Strike when they least expect it. She repeated these words a million times, I swear, they became some kind of parrot words. But what she actually spent her time doing? Salivating over her romantic interest’s abs.

Her trail of thoughts: I hate him, but I want him; I was always so strong-willed, but I see his abs and to what places my will goes? The love interest brought out a wild, uncontrolled part of herself, Mariko had not even known existed before. Right, that sounds alarmingly familiar. And the same goes for the aforementioned love interest: he was always so controlled and the girl made him loose control he so much prided himself for. Oookay, if you say so, darling. *redirects to the gif above* I think the author rushed the romance too much, it would’ve been better if the romance was left on the stage of hints and slow-burn for the next book to develop more, because it seriously turned the whole story into one angsty drama with hasty love-for-life declarations that spoiled all the fun for me.

But, as it was with the romance in TWATD, I was rooting for secondary characters’ romantic developments in FITM as well. I don’t know why, but in both author’s previous books and in this one, forbidden romance between secondary characters feels more real and endearing to me. There wasn’t much of it, and the scenes we had were heartbreaking and sweet and ten times more intriguing than Mariko’s love drama.

One more thing I want to mention in my review is the ending. I am sorry to be such a Grinch, but, again, I wasn’t impressed with it, and the twist didn’t make me gasp, only if maybe in disappointment

Overall, Flame in the Mist is definitely a book worth reading if only for the Japanese setting and Eastern wisdom. But if you weren’t a fan of the author’s previous works, don’t expect to fall in love with this one, because it follows a lot of the same tropes TWATD had. And, on the contrary, if you were a fan, it is highly positive you will love this book as well. For me it was a 50/50 case, some things I liked a lot, some made me roll my eyes a lot. But I am definitely reading book 2 (by the way, is it a duology or trilogy?), and am looking forward to more book space for my new book boyfriends and secondary romances. Also, the plot was quite engaging, and a couple of questions that are left make me highly curious as for how things will work out in the sequel.

My finale verdict: recommended!

Profile Image for April.
146 reviews260 followers
July 8, 2017
"You are first and foremost a person. A reckless, foolish person, but a person nonetheless. If I ever say you are not permitted to do something, rest assured that the last reason I would ever say so would be because you are a girl.” //

👏🏼I 👏🏼 LOVED 👏🏼 THIS👏🏼 BOOK👏🏼 Did not disappoint. Need the next book!
Profile Image for Laura.
425 reviews1,254 followers
May 23, 2017
This is my first book by Renee Ahdieh and it most certainly won't be my last. The writing is gorgeous, truly captivating me from start to finish. The feudal Japanese setting is fantastic and original. I have read very few books set in Japan, but I enjoyed this so much..I plan to fix that. The story is full of samurai, geisha, ronin, emperors, honor, secrets, and family. And even though at times the story was slower than I would've liked, I was enchanted through and through.

I read this as a buddy read with Lauren. She writes strong, thoughtful reviews and has excellent taste in books. Check it out :)

Mariko is on her way to Inako to marry the emperor's son when her litter gets attacked. If the Black Clan tried to kill her, then she'll be damned if she doesn't find out why and get her revenge. So Mariko is going to infiltrate the gang and do just that. Only problem is this is feudal Japan. Women don't have freedom. Cue the feminist parade! So Mariko disguises herself as a boy in order to successfully attempt her plan.

We should probably be thinking oh Mariko is so smart. She is taking care of herself. Now she did have a couple badass moments, but these were so far and few between. We kept being told how smart she is. And I mean consistently by not only Mariko but her brother Kenshin as well. I still feel we never saw this.

Kenshin desperately wants to find his sister and rescue her. He's an excellent samurai and tracker. He actually is a badass. The love he has for his sister runs deep, but he's also a ruthless individual who will do whatever it takes. I really enjoyed his complexity. Plus that sheer determination to find his sister. Would your brother do that for you? Mine for sure would not.

I really loved a lot of the characters actually. Okami, Amaya, Yoshi. I guess it doesn't do you any good if I just list random character names. But trust me, they are wonderful. My least favorite was Mariko even though her journey is still engrossing. I am curious how the romance is going to develop. It just peaked it's head. It feels like a lot of this book was setting things up for the future. There is political intrigue that seems like it'll be of larger importance later in the series. The complex dynamic of the royal court was certainly interesting.

I loved the use of Japanese mythology and history throughout. I cannot speak on how accurate these are because I am not quite as familiar with the culture or history. But it is all very fascinating and it added to the excellent world building. There are several unfamiliar Japanese terms used throughout. I really enjoyed them, though it would be helpful to know you can refer to the glossary at the back of the book. I used google for a while before I realized.

I could have used a bit of explanation on the magic system. There didn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to it. It felt very random. All this aside, I actually thoroughly enjoyed the book. The writing was exquisite with incredible world building. I loved the feminist theme throughout! The characters were wonderful. The sequel has the potential to be even better.
Profile Image for Bibi.
1,288 reviews3,230 followers
August 10, 2020
In contrast with her previous series (The Wrath and the Dawn) this book seems like more of the same.

A girl out for revenge. A guy out to find/rescue her. She falls in love-ish with the enemy. There's a potential love triangle. She says she's strong but really she's not. The magic is rather lame. The scenes are described in minutiae to the point it's bothersome, detracting from the plot.

Don't even get me started on the lame fight scenes, and then of course there's the dreaded cliffhanger. This is TWATD, deuxième partie.

That said, Ms Ahdieh certainly can write.
Profile Image for Tweebs♥️ .
184 reviews836 followers
May 2, 2017
Like honestly, it's 1am and I'm staring at my bedroom wall wondering why I did this to myself ??

ಥ_ಥ ಥ_ಥ ಥ_ಥ

Review to come when I discover how to stop sacrificing sleep!


I seen this somewhere on Goodreads and my eyes literally fell off my head.



Yes, you read that right. Your eyes aren't failing you.


Yeah, I'm hella thrilled for this book like cmon. I can't be alone in this???


Hands DOWN, Mulan has to be one of my favourite characters from Disney. She's absolute badass like yessssssss. I can feel the awesomeness of her character without even reading the book. You can't mess up Mulan.


Can we talk about the cover?? Oh my goodness






I'm lowkey debating whether I should build a tent in front of the bookstore the night before it's release. Yup, it sounds like a solid plan. (Anyone is free to join me, just bring FOOD!!)
Profile Image for Caitlin.
339 reviews698 followers
April 17, 2017
Buddy read with Josh and Amber!

You're probably thinking 'only 1 star?!'

Look, I know how bad 1 star looks so hear me out. I wanted to like this book. However, I never enjoyed a single second of it. I tried really hard to get into it but I really just struggled. Josh and Amber were really enjoying it but I just couldn't give a shit about the entire book. I was bored in every single page that I read. I never liked anything in it except for 1-2 sentences of female empowerment.

"I will not be bandied about by men any longer. I am not a prize to be bought or sold."

The premise of this book sounds incredible and I'm sure it will be good for a lot of people but unfortunately it fell incredibly flat for me. Within 10% I knew this book was going to be a maximum of 3 stars. That is literally the worst sign ever. I go into a book prepared to give it a 4 star and a lot has to happen in order to change my mind. My interest faded throughout the whole book and I found myself skipping entire pages without even caring. Let's be real, I skim read a large portion of it. I wanted to dnf so hard but I was determined to power through it. We agreed to only read 10% a day for 10 days (even though I powered ahead because I was so done) and without that I would definitely have dnf'd this book. I wanted to give this book 2 stars but then I realised that would be a complete lie and it would be for the benefit of everyone else and not for me.

For me personally, the story itself was boring. Bland. I didn't care for any characters and I honestly could not tell you a single characters name except for Mariko. That's how much of an impact this book had on me. I just didn't care for this book at all and it sucks. I can't even begin to tell you what happens in this book because honestly I wasn't paying attention. I tried so hard for 50% of this book to get into it but I couldn't so I gave up caring for the last 50%.

I came into this book looking for a Mulan retelling and we did kind of get that. However, I spent every second going okay when do we get more of the Mulan stuff that I care about and less of whatever the hell this is. For me this book was just boring. It never captured my attention once and honestly that is just so disappointing. It had some random weird magic that wasn't needed and some instalove that I didn't care for at all. I'm really sad that I didn't like this book and I genuinely hope other people like this book way more than I did. Josh and Amber liked it way more than I did so I'd definitely recommend reading their reviews.

I doubt I will be continuing on with this duology purely because I just don't give a shit?

I'm thankful I got an eARC of this book purely because it meant I could cancel my preorder of this book because I don't want to waste my money on a book I didn't enjoy AT ALL. I'm sorry I didn't like this book guys!

Obviously all thoughts are my own and the fact that I received an eARC did not impact my thoughts.
Profile Image for Silvia .
642 reviews1,429 followers
May 8, 2017
Buddy read with rin(hopefully this will get us out of our slumps) nope it didn't

I was provided an early copy of this by Netgalley but all opinions are my own.

This is probably a 2,5 stars, keeping the rating at 3 for now but I might change it. Nah it's a plain 2 stars.

I really liked some parts but other ones either didn't make any sense or they were just boring. The only reason I hurried to finish this was so I could be free to read something else and because being in a BR I felt motivated to keep up with my BR partner, but most of the time all I wanted to do was...basically anything that wasn't reading this.

It was a story with so much potential that I can't help but feel really sad and disappointed because some things were very poorly executed in my opinion.

Let’s start with Mariko’s character. We’re told she is really smart and clever, and within the book she “invents” shuriken, grenades (?) and possibly other things that I was too confused to really get, but we actually aren’t shown how intelligent she is. Ahdieh deliberately decides to have Mariko invent those things but as a reader that didn’t affect my perception of her as a rather bland character, and not a particularly smart at that.

From her reasons to stay with the Black Clan (so that she could...somehow save her name from “shame” in her family’s eyes...by camping with a group of men...mmh okaaay?) to her acceptance of things that she should probably have questioned (the animal in the forest?), she did not read like a very smart character.

She only shines with a couple of important quotes, but those aren’t enough to make me love the book (or her character as a whole). Still, it’s important for younger readers to see these messages in a book.
I will not be bandied about by men any longer. I am not a prize to be bought or sold.

Was is always necessary for boys to prove they knew more than anyone else around them?

She remembered Chiyo telling her that finding one’s match was like finding one’s other half. Mariko had never understood the notion. She was not a half. She was wholly her own.

Something else I liked was how the other few female characters were portrayed.
Mariko nudged the handle of her spoon with a bound fingertip. “Are you ever angry you were born a woman?”
Yumi sat back on her heels and studied Mariko for a spell. “I’ve never been angry to have been born a woman. There have been times I’ve been angry at how the world treats us, but I see being a woman as a challenge I must fight. Like being born under a stormy sky. Some people are lucky enough to be born on a bright summer’s day. Maybe we were born under clouds. No wind. No rain. Just a mountain of clouds we must climb each morning so that we may see the sun.”

Among the many things I would have liked to see, was Mariko and Kenshin’s relationship. Siblings’ relationships are one of the things I most enjoy reading about since I’m an only child, and since Mariko and Kenshin are twins I was hoping to get a lot of their relationship. Even though they don’t really interact in the book since they are separated, we get a few hints of how their relationship and their differences might be, but not enough to make me feel whether or not they have a strong bond or not. So this is another reason why I’m disappointed in this book. I’m sure it will be explored more in the second book, but I wish it had been built earlier on.

Another thing that completely failed in my eyes (and it was probably the worst aspect of this book for me) is the romance. At first, I didn’t see who the romance was going to be about. I had some ideas and I was wrong about my first thoughts (don’t worry though, there’s no love triangle). I was actually hoping that for once there would be no romance (even though I’m a sucker for it), because I didn’t really ship anyone. Well,that’s not entirely true, since I did ship a couple that ended up being just a brotp.

(I haven’t seen anyone complain about Ahdieh’s lack of LGBT+ portrayal even though there was none in this or, as far as I remember, in TWATD. I’d be interested to know why we only “attack” certain authors but not others for this, but that’s a discussion that I don’t feel like having in a review)

Anyway, there was no romance for most part of this book, and then it just...was there. And I didn’t feel it. Not only was I not given time to ship it, it also felt boring and I didn’t like how it suddenly happened.

The romance and the discovery of Mariko’s gender are two things that go hand in hand in the book, and it’s something that bothered me endlessly. The way Mariko was finally found out was so over-used and unimaginative that I just couldn’t believe my eyes. There was a lot of potential there and it just vanished within half a scene. I’m so disappointed and pissed.

Reading the rest of the romantic plot I felt like I had to turn a blind eye to the fact that I hated the way it developed. Again, there were a couple more nice quotes,

“You are first and foremost a person. A reckless, foolish person, but a person nonetheless. If I ever say you are not permitted to do something, rest assured that the last reason I would ever say so would be because you are a girl.”

but I never loved it.

The world building felt quite genuine (although many Japanese terms were used without an explanation - at least not in the ARC version. I think the published book will have some sort of summary at the end like TWATD) but I didn’t get the use of the magic. It was very similar in this to TWATD but it bothered me more. We’re shown a glimpse of magic that is never explained and just confused me. I’m sure it will be explored more in the next book but I don’t like this approach.

I think it’s still worth to give this book a try if you loved TWATD. I might request the ARC of the next book whenever it’s on Netgalley but I don’t think I’ll be purchasing it with my money.

Holy shit I just got an ARC of this
Profile Image for Lauren (Shakespeare & Whisky).
256 reviews442 followers
May 21, 2017
"Mariko… 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."


I thought this was lovely.

An entertaining fantasy with an intriguing setting, sympathetic protagonist and Ahdieh's signature writing.

Buddy read with the lovely Laura so check out her great reviews, she is an excellent reviewer and even when we disagree I appreciate her perspective. :)


"Curious had been the word most often ascribed to her when she was younger. She’d been the watchful sort of child. The one conscious of every mistake. When Mariko had erred, it had usually been intentional. An attempt to push barriers. Or a desire to learn."

Mariko was an easy character to feel sympathetic towards, even if she wasn't particularly likeable. She had a tendency to overthink matters and the mental gnawing got a little tiring at time.

In addition, she frequently lacked the critical reasoning skills that should have been evident considering we were repeatedly told she was extremely intelligent.

However, I loved that she was an inventor. That was a fun little addition to her character.

Okami was a delight and when Ahdieh let the two characters interact was really the only time I felt that real frisson of chemistry I like to see between characters.

I also wanted to mention the relationship between Mariko and her brother. I absolutely love seeing positive relationships between siblings:

"Though Keshin had yet to understand her purpose, he believed in his younger sister. Supported her. Just as he knew she believed in and supported him. They would always be there for each other."

I really loved this and am hoping fervently that their relationship is deepened in the next book.


"Today her thoughts were consumed by murderous retribution. Mariko had dreamed of setting fire to the Black Clan's camp no less than 10 times in the past hour."

Honestly, I think I appreciated the potential of this novel more than the reality. The pacing was so uneven!. Mariko is attacked and almost murdered. She suspects the Black Clan, so she joins them (sort of) in order to enact bloody revenge…. And then proceeds to... carry logs, take baths and visit tea houses for 300 pages… I mean, look it was fine, but... really?

In fact, this reminded me a little of The Bone Witch.

You know the character will become kickass and you see a lot of evidence of her potential (she makes bombs and stabs someone in the eye with a hair pin for god's sake) but this first novel spends a lot of time on character development, romance and setting the stage for the next book, which I suspect will have a lot more violence and political machinations.

I would definitely recommend readers settle in and enjoy the slower pace because I think it will pay off.


"Never forget, Sanda Takeo: in this forest, there is no place to hide."

I appreciate anything outside of the medieval setting in fantasy. This was a strong element in her work, probably a big part of why I didn't mind the slower pacing.

I would be interested in how successfully people think she pulled it off who have more experience in novels inspired by eastern philosophy and history.

The only criticism I have of the setting are the fantasy elements. What the heck was the magic system here? Maybe I've been spoilt by too much Sanderson but the magic was ill-defined in this novel and added very little to the plot. This novel would have worked completely absent of magic; And I Darken- style.


"I believe the stars align so souls can find one another. Whether they are meant to be souls in love or souls in life remains to be seen."

Ahdieh is one of the most beautiful writers in YA fantasy at the moment. The only writer that exceeds her is Laini Taylor. There isn't much else to say prose-wise. It was a delight to read.


"I’ve never been angry to have been born a woman. There have been times I’ve been angry at how the world treats us, but I see being a woman as a challenge I must fight. Like being born under a stormy sky. Some people are lucky enough to be born on a bright summer’s day. Maybe we were born under clouds. No wind. No rain. Just a mountain of clouds we must climb each morning so that we may see the sun."

A pet peeve of mine is books that employ the "girl dressed as boy" trope but don't bother exploring the gender politics of such an action. This aspect was well done.

It was great to see a wealthy, privileged character, who was confined by her gender, grapple with the realities of her social position.

I especially appreciated that she was not a magical warrior who picked up a sword for the first time and realised she was a savant when it comes to killing.

Actually, every scene of violence was messy and frightening.

She knew her strengths and limitations and used them to her advantage.
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