Book Review Time: Flame in the Mist | Renée Ahdieh


Book Details

Hardcover: 416 pages

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

Publication Date: May 16, 2017

Goodreads Synopsis

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.”


The hype surrounding Flame in the Mist mostly seemed to arise from the exciting idea that this book would be a retelling of one of the most beloved Disney films, Mulan. I, too, was really excited by that possibility and so I went in with some pretty high expectations. After reading, I have to say that while I really like this book, I can’t say that it’s perfect.

“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…”

Renée Ahdieh’s writing is just as descriptive and fluid as her prose in her The Wrath & the Dawn duology. She goes into great detail to bring her setting of feudal Japan to life,  and it’s quite obvious that the author did a good bit of research to make her characters and the world they live in to be as authentic as possible. While some elements of the Mulan storyline are present (i.e. girl disguises herself as a boy), the story itself is fairly original and a story all its own.

The characters were all very interesting, especially Mariko, whom I found to be very clever, independent, strong-willed, and extremely capable of taking care of herself. And luckily, Mariko wasn’t the only strong female character. There were other women who excelled in their own strengths, such as the geishas, the emperor’s mistress, and even the empress, and so I really appreciated the feminist aspect of the book.

“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.”

I also found Mariko’s and Kenshin’s sibling relationship to be strong and genuine despite the distance between them. And even though we weren’t given that many chapters from Kenshin’s POV, I felt that we were given enough to get to really know and appreciate his character.

Okami had a mysteriousness about him I found appealing and I liked his standoffish yet playful nature. I enjoyed his odd friendship with Mariko while she was disguised as a boy, but I felt as if the romance between him and Mariko (once it she is revealed to be a girl) was a bit forced and not at all very well-developed. It kind of appeared for the sake of plot progression and it just didn’t feel natural enough.

“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.”

As for the plot itself, I felt the beginning was very engaging and started out with a bang, but the rest of the book sort of reaches a plateau in which nothing of great interest occurs. The action is severely reduced as the pacing slows down so that we’re better able to see Mariko engage with her environment. The ending, however, picks up the pace again, only to end far too quickly and somewhat abruptly.

The magic element was a welcome addition to the story but the description of the magical acts were kind of vague. I didn’t really understand the rules of magic use in this world and by the end, I was kind of wondering if it was really necessary even though I knew it was. Hopefully the next book clears some things up.

Mariko’s fierceness and determination are the best parts about the book and I love how detailed this world is. I would have liked to read more action scenes and I wish the romance and Mariko’s friendships among the Black Clan members were better established. Other than those few things, I thought this was a very enjoyable book.

My Rating:

4 Star Rating

18 thoughts on “Book Review Time: Flame in the Mist | Renée Ahdieh

  1. Great review for this book Azia, I’m glad you enjoyed it though it’s a shame it couldn’t quite live up to the hype for you. I agree with a lot of the points you made in your review, I loved Mariko’s character development but the relationship between her and Okami did feel a little forced, especially given the fact she ran away from her arranged marriage because she didn’t want that life you know? Also yes I wish the magic elements in this book had been explained more as well, but I’m holding out hope they will in the second book, which I am really excited for.
    Again great review! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Beth! And yeah, some elements of the book just didn’t sit right with me, especially Okami and Mariko’s romance. I felt like it didn’t really make sense for either of their characters. You know what would have been interesting, though? If Okami had tried to form a romantic relationship with Mariko as a boy. Now that would have been interesting, I think, and would have almost made a bit more sense to me. I’m still excited to see where the story will go though in the next book. Thanks again, Beth! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s all right. I think overall as long as you enjoy the book despite the odd element here and there it can be counted as a success. Ohh, that would have been a very interesting angle for the story to take. I kind of wish that’s what happened because imagine how betrayed Okami would have been when he discovered Mariko was female. It could have been some amazing character development there.
        Same here, and that’s all right! 🙂 ❤️

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Absolutely right 🙂 And I know, right?? That would have been so interesting and a nice twist on the original storyline! Guess we’ll just have to wait and see what surprises the next book brings!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I totally agree with your review!! I’m so glad you enjoyed this book, though it definitely wasn’t perfect. I LOVED Mariko’s character and seeing her relationship with the Black Clan, though I for sure would’ve loved to see more of that. And I definitely hope the magic is explored in the next book!! I can’t wait to see where Renee Ahdieh takes the story next ahah. Lovely review!! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Analee! Mariko certainly was the best part about the book but I reaally wanted to see more of her interactions with the Black Clan, too. I think that would have helped add a bit more charm and character to the story as a whole! Really excited for the next book 😀 Thanks again!


  3. I can’t wait to read this one! I’m glad you enjoyed it despite some minor flaws 🙂 I honestly thought it would be much worse, considering you started the review with “I went in with some pretty high expectations” hahaha
    I’m trying to keep mine as low as possible due to all the less positive reviews floating around and because of what I’ve read about it. I’m a BIG Mulan fan, so to try and compare the book to the movie (or even the heroines) would be a bit unfair of me, leading only to disappointment.
    Amazing review, Azia! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. LOL, yeah, my expectations were ridiculously high, so that was on me. The flaws are pretty minor though. Overall, I think it’s a pretty strong book! But I wouldn’t compare it to Mulan. It’s pretty different and honestly, nothing matches up to Mulan 😉 LOL
      Thanks, Sophie! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

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