Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh is a young adult fantasy that takes place in Japan. Mariko is the only daughter of a respected samurai and as a daughter, Mariko knows her lot in life is to marry. Mariko is odd for a girl; she is smart, cunning and questions everything.
At seventeen Mariko is sent to the imperial palace to marry a man she has never met. On the way her caravan is attacked by bandits who are intent on taking her life. Narrowly escaping with her life, Mariko hides in the woods where she hatches a plan to uncover her would-be murderers. Dressed as a boy, Mariko tracks down the Black Clan, a notorious group of thieves, and attempts to infiltrate their ranks.
But infiltrating this den of misfits isn’t what she thought. For once in her life, Mariko is appreciated for her wit and inventiveness. She even finds herself drawn to the boys and men of this group, protective of them and falling for one in particular.
What will Mariko do when loyalty to her family comes in direct conflict with her newfound loyalty to the clan?
I really enjoyed this one. It had a little bit of everything. Mythology, mystery and magic, a band of misfit boys with a girl undercover within their ranks, just the right amount of romance, action and surprises. Ahdieh is just a great writer. She gets what the reader wants and she gives it to them in just the right ways.
Mariko has this practical spontaneity that I just love. She is impulsive and yet she still thinks things through before she acts. I also love how she comes full circle, from the promised daughter, to boy bandit and finally finding herself as a girl and a person. We see her journey and we are promised oh so much more.
Other than Mariko, this book was very boy heavy and I loved the majority of them. Mariko’s brother, Kenshin, I’m still up in the air about but the black clan reminded me of the lost boys in such a good way. Oh and don’t even get me started on Ōkami and Ranmaru–I loved these best friends, their dynamic is great and they play off each other well. And boy is Ōkami darkly yummy.
I also really hope we get more of the mystical aspects like blood-sucking trees and magical abilities. There was this mystical feel to the book even though we only get glimpses of the magic going on behind the scenes.
I cannot wait for the sequel to this one! You can just tell that this was a book to get you hooked on the characters before the real story breaks through and I was totally okay with that. This one gets a high 4.5 stars from me.
That’s all for now!