Flame in the Mist (#1)
by Renee Ahdieh
Genre: Historical Fantasy
Published May 16, 2017
Bang Bang Rating:
Mariko is betrothed to the Emperor’s son, the spare, and although she doesn’t want to she agrees for the sake of family (remember this important detail-sake of family). On her way, Mariko’s convoy is set ablaze killing everyone except Mariko and as she barely escapes she hears the murderer’s but doesn’t see them. HELL bent on finding the murderers, Mariko suspects the infamous Black Clan and she infiltrates the Clan to see if they are the culprits.
Kershnin, Mariko’s twin brother, investigates the crime scene and concludes that Mariko is not dead and sets on a journey to find her and the murderers. While everyone suspects the Black Clan, Kershnin knows the Clan does not attack women so he’s keeping an open mind thus setting up doubt for the reader.
Meanwhile, Mariko cuts off her hair and poses as a boy while she “interns” with the Clan. She eats eggs, learns how to fight with a sword for a couple of weeks, and waxes poetic as she rides to the tea house with her new compadres. She meets some good guys and some bad guys and alas, she meets what I called and what Ahdieh LOVES to do; a villain with a heart of gold. In true Ahdieh form, she waffles between her love for the man and her duty to her family. She constantly reminds herself to be strong and brave yet she continues to make the wrong choice until an unlikely person sets her straight (that I saw coming a MILE away).
Another meanwhile, the emperor is a bastard and also has a consort whom he fathered his first son (the son Mariko is betrothed to) and the consort and the empress do not like each other. The consort has some pretty cool magical powers but it’s buried in the plot and not explained. The two ladies have agendas of their own but once again they are not explained leaving the reader like WTF?
I can’t talk about the end because it’s a spoiler but I’ll just say this. The main plot of the story, Mariko’s motive which she reminds us constantly is to find out who the murderers are and why, is not only unresolved but the plot shifts in the last act of the novel. I understand cliffhangers but I think the main plot should have some resolution and not just a set up for the next book. If you want to read my spoiler edition, click here.
Overall, I was VERY generous with this book as it met many of the things I hate about YA fantasy. (You can listen to the podcast below). I gave it 3 bombs instead of 2 because I was kind of enjoying it until the last 80 pages when Mariko’s actions were UNBELIEVABLE. Up until then I was overlooking the many small details that I found troublesome.
I like Renee. I’ve met her and she’s a lovely person but this is the second book of hers that I’ve read and I do not like her writing style. I don’t like the 3rd person alternative POV because her main character is often a waffler who lives in her head and unfortunately she’s usually to most non dynamic in the entire novel. Ahdieh has no confidence in the reader and instead of inferring actions, she tells the reader everything. She also does too much telling and not enough showing. I liked the setting and the history lesson but the writing just isn’t strong enough for me.
Below you can listen to Roulette Reader and my podcast of Flame in the Mist.
Podcast of 10 Things We Hate About YA Fantasy