To Read or Not to Read: Flame in the Mist
Renee Ahdieh delivers another captivating fantasy story with her new duology, Flame in the Mist. This book has been one of my most anticipated reads of 2017, and it did not disappoint. Once again, Ahdieh grabs readers with her enchanting prose, suspenseful magical mystery, and a fierce heroine to root for.
In Flame in the Mist, Ahdieh transports us to the enigmatic and mesmerizing setting of feudal Japan. We are introduced to Mariko, a clever, resourceful, and capable daughter of an influential and powerful samurai. Against her wishes, Mariko’s father has arranged her marriage with one of the emperor’s sons. The story opens with Mariko traveling to the imperial palace to meet her betrothed and get married. However, her procession is attacked en route by a rebel group known as The Black Clan. As the only survivor, Mariko is determined to figure out who wants her dead and why. She comes up with a Mulan-esque plan to go undercover as a boy to gain access to The Black Clan. What results is a journey of self-acceptance, identity, and truths.
• What I love most about picking up a book by Ahdieh is that I know I’m going to be blown away by the sheer beauty of her writing style. Her vivid descriptions immerse you in her world. In Flame in the Mist we have the opportunity to explore feudal Japan and the samurai culture. Ahdieh takes great care to incorporate structure of society, forms of dress and appearance, food, and traditions. It’s a wonderfully unique world to read about.
• The central theme of Flame in the Mist comes from the philosophy of Bushido, the way of the warrior. There are seven guiding principles: integrity, courage, benevolence, respect, honesty, honor, and loyalty. Ahdieh weaves her narrative around these ideas and explores what each means and what it looks like in practice. This creates a very compelling internal conflict for many of the characters. There is a struggle to uphold this code of conduct versus what they desire to do. This development reveals the deep complexities of the characters.
• Flame in the Mist has a phenomenal cast of characters. Mariko is strong willed and unyielding in the face of challenges. However, there is a vulnerable side to her that longs for freedom and a wish to be loved and accepted for who she is. We get to meet her twin brother, Kenshin, the very embodiment of the philosophy of Bushido. To round out the cast are the two most prominent members of The Black Clan, Ranmaru and Okami. They are cloaked in secrets, mystery, and intrigue. The story is primarily from Mariko’s perspective, but we also get a glimpse from the other characters’ view as well.
• There is a lot of suspense, mystery, deception, manipulation, and drama surrounding the political plot. It really comes to its climax at the end of this book, leaving a pretty major cliffhanger.
• I didn’t understand the magic system present in Flame in the Mist. To be honest, there were times I wasn’t even sure if magic was occurring in a scene or not. There wasn’t any clear exposition from the characters about magic being an established part of their world. I’m hoping Ahdieh will expand on this in the sequel.
• Ahdieh set the bar high for romance with The Wrath and the Dawn. So, going into Flame in the Mist I was expecting that level of electrifying, angsty, and passionate ship moments. While I did enjoy a particular burgeoning romance between two characters, it wasn’t nearly enough. I wanted so much more, but I will have to be patient for it in the sequel.
Flame in the Mist is a riveting tale of secret identities, political machinations, and finding the warrior within. If you enjoyed Ahdieh’s debut series, you are sure to love this one too.
About the Pop-Culturalist Contributor, Amna
Amna is an elementary school teacher living in Texas who enjoys reading and writing about YA books in her free time. Her favorite authors include: Cassandra Clare, Sarah J. Mass, Sabaa Tahir, and Renee Ahdieh.