Friday, 12 May 2017

Flame in the Mist - Review

Book Review:
Title: Flame in the Mist
Author: Renee Ahdieh
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Release Date: 18th May 2017 (UK)
I received an early copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Mariko has always known that being a woman means she's not in control of her own fate. But Mariko is the daughter of a prominent samurai and a cunning alchemist in her own right, and she refuses to be ignored. When she is ambushed by a group of bandits known as the Black Clan enroute to a political marriage to Minamoto Raiden - the emperor's son - Mariko realises she has two choices: she can wait to be rescued... or she can take matters into her own hands, hunt down the clan and find the person who wants her dead.
Disguising herself as a peasant boy, Mariko infiltrates the Black Clan's hideout and befriends their leader, the rebel ronin Ranmaru, and his second-in-command, Okami. Ranmaru and Okami warm to Mariko, impressed by her intellect and ingenuity. But as Mariko gets closer to the Black Clan, she uncovers a dark history of secrets that will force her to question everything she's ever known.

So I've decided not to write a typical review for Flame in the Mist.
After reading the book and finding so many beautiful quotes, I've decided to essentially review this book with quotes. What I mean by that is I'll be sharing what I loved about the book with a quote from the book (and a bit of explanation as well.)
I don't think I explained that very well, but you'll see what I mean.

So what did I adore about Flame in the Mist?

1. First we have probably my favourite aspect of the book: Female Empowerment!

🌸“I’ve never been angry to have been born a woman. There have been times I’ve been angry at how the world treats us, but I see being a woman as a challenge I must fight. Like being born under a stormy sky. Some people are lucky enough to be born on a bright summer’s day. Maybe we were born under clouds. No wind. No rain. Just a mountain of clouds we must climb each morning so that we may see the sun.”🌸
There were so many quotes I could have used to show how empowering this book is, but this was the one that really stuck with me.
Renee Ahdieh really conveyed some important messages throughout this book regarding being a woman. One being that physical strength isn't everything. Women face so many challenges in their lives and are quite frequently seen as the 'weaker' sex, but we aren't, because there are so many different types of strengths that are just as, if not more, useful than physical 'male' strength. Mariko's best weapon, for instance, is her mind and rather than dwelling on what she lacks, she utilises what she has and becomes equally as powerful as the other members of the Black Clan.

2. Next up: The Setting!

A city of a hundred arched bridges and a thousand cherry trees. A city of mud and sweat and sewage. A city of golden cranes and amber sunsets.
A city of secrets.🌸
One thing I adore when it comes to fantasy novels is finding a new wonderful world to fall in love with. It's always a pleasure learning about a new culture and this book was no exception. Flame in the Mist may be the first book I've read set in Japan, but it certainly won't be the last!
With every word Renee Ahdieh wrote, I was able to transport myself into the world and visualise it beautifully. At times the new terminology could be a bit frustrating, having to flick back and forth to find the meaning, but in the end, it really did make it all that much more special and enchanting to read. I was also able to appreciate and embrace the culture more with it.

3. What first intrigued me about the book: The influence of Mulan!
🌸"She was not a half. She was wholly her own."🌸
So, if you didn't know, Flame in the Mist is loosely based on Mulan. I say loosely as, even with the similarities (girl disguises a boy, girl is trained by the leader etc.) the book is more different than it is similar. For instance, while Mulan is based on Chinese culture, FitM is inspired by Japanese culture. Really Flame in the Mist stands on its own, but when I saw the little similarities between the two, my heart soared! Mulan is one of my favourite Disney movies and after seeing and reading so many Cinderella & Beauty and the Beast retellings, I was just waiting for the day for someone to write one based off of Mulan.

4. The shining stars: The Black Clan/Side Characters!
🌸"Never doubt. Never fear. Never overthink." Okami watched her as he spoke. As though he was searching for something beyond her. "That is the only way to stay alive"
A glimmer of reason shone in his words. It unsettled her even further🌸
Alongside a great protagonist, Renee Ahdieh has also managed to create a fantastic cast of side characters. Normally, while I appreciate side characters, I can sometimes struggle to connect with them like I do with the protagonist. But when you have characters like Kenshin (Mariko's brother,) Ranmaru (Leader of the Black Clan,) Okami (Second-in-command & my love!) and many others, you can't help but become attached to them as well. To quote Shrek, every character was like an onion, they had layers of depth, complexity and mystery. A great combination!

5. Last but not least: The Romance!
🌸“To me, you are magic.”🌸
Ahhhh the romance! What can I say about the romance that isn't too spoilerly? Hmmm, well let's just say it was right up my alley.
Mariko's love interest was perfect. He wasn't the type of guy, which we see too often in YA novels, where he considers Mariko 'his' now all because he is with her. He knows she is her own person and he accepts and loves that. He was essentially a feminist! ✊
Another thing I loved was that the romance wasn't overpowering. There wasn't no foolish 'since I'm in a relationship now, I'm going to forget about all my priorities and only think about my boyfriend 24/7.' Renee managed to find a perfect balance of moving the plot along while having a charming romance on the side.

To sum up, although a bit slow at the start, Renee Ahdieh has weaved a beautiful story surrounding female strength with a lush Japanese culture inspired backdrop.
If you're looking for a book with a strong female protagonist, complex side characters, an evocative world and a sweet romance, Flame in the Mist is your book!
Don't forget to buy a copy: Amazon | Wordery | Waterstones

4.5 Stars

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