Flame in the Mist by Renée Ahdieh

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

When Flame in the Mist first came on my radar, it was being described by every BookTuber as a Mulan retelling where a girl dresses as a boy after her envoy is attacked and with being the lone survivor, swears revenge. Mulan vibes right? 

When I read the book... not so much. I did get slight Mulan vibes but only in moments where I feel like it was just plucked from the Disney movie. 

Flame in the Mist follows a girl called, Mariko, who is the daughter of a prominent social climber. He is desperate to curry favour with the emperor and so betroths his daughter to one of the emperor's sons. When maings her way to the Imperial palace to meet her betrothed, her caravan is attacked by members of the Black Clan. Mariko is the lone survivor and swears revenge on those that wanted her dead. To do this, she will have to dress as a man and infiltrate the Black Clan. 

I had been stalking the Waterstones website for weeks determined to get the hardback version of the book because I like hardbacks, sue me. When I picked it up to read, I had paused my reading on a different book because I just could not get into it no matter how hard I tried. I thought it was because I was jumping into a third-person narrative after three consecutive books of first-person narratives. Flame in the Mist is written in the third-person and this narrative works best for this kind of story. I was hooked from the very first chapter. 

That first chapter, holy chicken fried rice! I was not expecting that for an opening chapter. What an opening! That instantly set up my intrigue that would last to the very last page. 

This book was my first time reading anything by Ahdieh as I had heard a lot of amazing reviews of her previous works, The Wrath and the Dawn and The Rose and the Dagger. As a first encounter, it did not disappoint. I adored her writing style. Throughout the book the narrative is speckled with Japanese words to add an addition flare of authenticity and to firmly cement the setting in Japan. These flourishes didn't seem out of place or stop the flow of the writing. Even though I cannot speak or read a word of Japanese, I felt as if I knew what all of the words meant because of the context. Then I discovered that there was a handy-dandy glossary in the back of the book that I would flip to just for clarification every so often. Just to be sure. I very much enjoyed that aspect of the writing. 

As I previously mentioned, there where moments in the book where the Disney movie was very prevalent in my mind. The first being, obviously, when Mariko has to cut her hair and uses a sword to do it. 

That scene went through my head the moment Mariko grabbed her hair at the nape of her neck. 

When Mariko ingratiates herself to the leader of the Black Clan, she is then trained. Naturally, my head instantly went to Zhang and the infamous 'I'll Make A Man Out Of You' song, yet Mariko's tutor was nowhere near as charismatic as Zhang and he didn't sing. 

Ahdieh paints such a vivid world throughout this book. From the dark, dangerous and mysterious forest, to the ramshackle watering hole, to the Imperial City, the world was incredibly vivid and I felt as if I was experiencing it all for the first time like Mariko who had lived a sheltered life in her farming province. I especially loved the imagery of Hanami within the Imperial City. I could just imagine how colourful and bustling it was. 

In terms of characters, I adored them. There were times when I wanted to grab them by the collar and shake them but those are the characters that you remember the most, for good or bad. Within the narrative you are privy to their thoughts and not just that of the main protagonist. I particularly liked the members of the Black Clan. At times they were a tad cliché but you will always encounter characters like that no matter what you read. Some characters made me ask more questions and made me want to know more about them, especially Ōkami. I wanted to more about him and I did love the twist regarding him. 

The part that surprised me the most was the sudden onset of a possible romance. That took me aback because I wasn't expecting it and neither were the characters. That made it quite enticing. 

The overall plot of the book was good. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I didn't feel bored at any point. I felt as if it followed a natural progression and scenes weren't thrown in just for the sake of word count and filling a gap. I particularly liked that the chapters didn't solely follow Mariko. Other chapters followed her brother and the Imperial family. That kept me interested. 

One thing that I found particularly interesting but not wholly original was the political undercurrent of the book. As much as this is not a Mulan retelling, I felt as if it had aspects of Mulan mashed with Robin Hood: the whole stealing from the rich and giving to the pair and fair distribution of money. 

If any woman-dresses-as-a-man-and-takes-up-arms classifies as Mulan, then a lot of books and movies need to be re-marketed as Mulan retellings. It isn't a wholly original story but Ahdieh makes it her own in this book. I wasn't seeing Mulan during this book, I saw Mariko. I would be lying if I didn't say I imagined Mariko from The Wolverine movie, purely for visualisation purposes, obviously. 

And I suppose you could say that one character has some Wolverine characteristics if you look hard enough. 

I was, however, unsurprised by the very end of the book. As soon as I knew who was featured in that chapter, I figured out what was going to happen. Nevertheless, it did finish the book off in a way that makes me incredibly eager for the continuation and to get answers to my questions. Because I have a lot. 

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I gave it 5 ✭ on Goodreads. Have you read Flame in the Mist? Is it on your wishlist of books to read? Let me know your thoughts.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Design by | SweetElectric