So when Renee Ahdieh’s new series Flame in the Mist came out, I broke into a happy dance. Seriously, that cover.
Flame in the Mist is a YA fantasy set in feudal Japan. It intertwines samurai, geisha, ronin, empires, intrigue, a daughter’s duty and just the right amount of magic. I love Asian culture and this book didn’t disappoint.
The story begins with Mariko, a dutiful daughter of a wealthy samurai, on her way to the imperial city to marry the son of the emperor’s favorite consort. When the notorious Black Clan attacks her convoy in the haunted Jukai forest, she fakes her death and dresses as a boy to discover why the Black Clan was paid to kill her.
Wait, hold up, this story sounds a lot like Mulan. At least that’s what my kids thought when I told them the plot. Say what now? Oh no they did not, yes they did. The only similarity is a strong young heroine dressed up as a boy. Flame in the Mist compares to Mulan the same as Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. So shame on me for not taking my children to more plays. Mulan? Please.
Flame in the Mist is definitely not Mulan
Everything magical in the Jukai Forest is creepy. Stay away from the trees; a simple but solid piece of advice. There are no wise-cracking dragons for comedic relief, just scary lurking things that may suck the marrow from your children. That doesn’t actually happen. But it could have.
The ronin who belong to The Black Clan are hot, brooding attack-my-convoy-please bandits. Seriously, these guys are…well written. And when Mariko falls for one of them, the romance is intense. Bella/Edward intense? Possibly.
The emperor has two sons: one legitimate and the older son, Mariko’s betrothed, is not. As Mariko’s world enlarges, so does her complicated relationship with the prince and his half brother. I should probably mention the hatred between the bitter empress and the witchy consort because they fuel several intrigues.
Mariko has a warrior brother driven by honor, duty, and love. Her brother, the famed Dragon of Kai, is desperate to find his sister when he discovers she isn’t dead. But pride shadows his good intentions and compels him do unthinkable, messed up things.
Mariko is inventive, tough, smart and a positive role model for young women. So yeah, she’s like Mulan in that respect. I loved being inside Mariko’s head when she was making tough decisions and shutting the guys down.
I would recommend Flame in the Mist to all breathing women. If you enjoy reading strong women, Asian culture, a touch of magical fantasy and hot loyal guys who are just a bit misunderstood, you may love it as much as me.
Have you read this? Did you love Flame in the Mist too? Tell me in the comments. Seriously, I need to talk about it with someone. Sooo good.