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.
I enjoyed this book so much more than I expected. Despite loving The Wrath and the Dawn, I read it years ago (pretty much when it came out), I’m not sure what I’d think of it now. I’ve seen very mixed reviews of all of Ahedieh’s books, so I went into this one with low/mixed expectations.
However, I’m pleased to say it was really good! I hadn’t actually seen anything saying this was a Mulan retelling, but I quickly came to that conclusion myself and loved it for it. Mulan is one of my favourite Disney films and stories, and Flame in the Mist seemed to take all the best parts from it.
‘”Have you ever loved anyone?” “Yes.”‘
Mariko was such a great protagonist for me personally. We do not have enough strong, female role models in books and I admired Mariko as a rarity. She was a total badass who stood up for what she believed in even if it meant risking everything.
Her story was so entertaining, it felt so fun to read this book. Honestly, once I got stuck in the pages would fly by. I could read tons at a time because it was easy and enjoyable. The scenes were thrilling and all-encompassing. The chapters were short and the writing was beautiful. I have always admired Ahdieh most for her writing style, and she didn’t let me down here!
The world really sucked me in and I enjoyed that it was set in Japan. A small downside for me was the lack of understanding over some Japanese words, but my edition did have a glossary in the back and in the end I just found it all added to the atmosphere of the novel.
‘”Did it feel like magic?” “Sometimes it does” but his smile was not from the heart. “Other times, it feels like an endless siege.”‘
I do want to quickly mention the romance before I wrap this up. This book had much less romance than The Wrath and the Dawn and I enjoyed that. The romance that was included was very enjoyable to read about, and didn’t take over the plot!
The only downside for me was the fact I can’t seem to remember anything that happened, and I seemed to read it in a bit of a fog too. I did take longer breaks than usual between reading it, and I just forgot a few things along the way and found it hard to delve straight back into it. Hopefully that will change in Smoke in the Sun!
4 out of 5 stars
May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽