The only daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has always known she’d been raised for one purpose and one purpose only: to marry. Never mind her cunning, which rivals that of her twin brother, Kenshin, or her skills as an accomplished alchemist. Since Mariko was not born a boy, her fate was sealed the moment she drew her first breath.
So, at just seventeen years old, Mariko is sent to the imperial palace to meet her betrothed, a man she did not choose, for the very first time. But the journey is cut short when Mariko’s convoy is viciously attacked by the Black Clan, a dangerous group of bandits who’ve been hired to kill Mariko before she reaches the palace.
The lone survivor, Mariko narrowly escapes to the woods, where she plots her revenge. Dressed as a peasant boy, she sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan and hunt down those responsible for the target on her back. Once she’s within their ranks, though, Mariko finds for the first time she’s appreciated for her intellect and abilities. She even finds herself falling in love—a love that will force her to question everything she’s ever known about her family, her purpose, and her deepest desires.
Author: Renee Ahdieh
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Published: May 16th 2017
Flame in the Mist #1
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Ah… Renee Ahdieh. This book pleased me. I had no doubt that I would be entertained… if I put the ‘Mulan retelling” out of my mind… I really wanted some Mulan vibes.
Keeping it short: Mariko, on her way to her arranged marriage, survives an assassination attack. Thinking the Black Clan did it, she cuts her hair, dresses as a boy and infiltrates their camp.
I’m going to be honest: I was expecting Mariko to infiltrate the camp, learn some assassin skills and become a badass assassin with tiny magic powers on the side. That didn’t happen. Instead, she get bullied a bit by the other assassins (how many times am I gonna say assassin?), has tension filled
border lined angst conversations with Okami, and make ninja stars. Meanwhile her brother is hell-bent on finding her, so we get a few of his POV’s scattered here and there.
Mariko as a main character was cool. I liked how she was more into science and her brother saw her smarts and appreciated them. Despite not becoming a badass assassin (she does pick up a few tiny tidbits… though not much) she does have this inner strength that I admired. She does do a few dumb things towards the end, but they get made up for by her awesomeness (that’s a word…) Okami… okay-unpopular opinion alert- I didn’t get the hype. He was cool? I honestly didn’t care about him or his mysterious secrets.
The romance between Mariko and Okami (which is minimal) was… I Liked It. There was a problem, which I also had with Mulan. IT CAME OUT OF NOWHERE. Okami saw her as an annoying, secretive, untrustworthy little brother at best… then he finds out she’s a girl and they kiss in that same moment! We see the progression of Mariko’s feelings… His was so sudden. He went from “He’s such an annoyance, but I’m protective of him like a brother” to “Oh, she’s a girl? Wow, she’s pretty, let me kiss her.” I think I’ve read only one book where they did the whole ‘girl is dressed up as a guy and her travel companion doesn’t know but falls for her anyways’ right.
Now, I notice in Renee’s books, there’s always some random magic thrown in there (hence, why I was expecting it). But it was too random. I didn’t get the purpose of it. Was it needed? Also, where were the female friendships? I get it, she was surrounded by dudes, acting like a dude. And I wanted more brother/sister dynamic. Hopefully, all these gets developed more in book two.
There was also this side plot with a king, his wife and his side girl… I didn’t get the inclusion of that either. Anyways, this book was a fun book I read in one sitting. Of course I’m looking forward to the next one.