TITLE: Flame In The Mist
AUTHOR: Renée Ahdieh
SERIES: Flame In The Mist (#1)
PUBLISHER: Hodder & Stoughton
GENRE: Young Adult, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Romance
RATING: 4/5 Stars
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.
What I Liked:
- Historical fiction is a genre I love, and it's been a while since I read a historical novel. This book is set in Feudal Japan (my all time dream destination) and I loved it! I really felt that Ahdieh had done a lot of research and knew the time period and setting really well. There were samurais, and geishas and tea ceremonies galore, such a great 'Japanese' vibe!
- There were a lot of different POVs included in this book which helped to mix things up a bit. Mariko was a great MC, a tough, stubborn woman angry with her 'place' in the world and seeking to honour her family more than just by marrying someone important. I thought all of the characters were unique and had great personality, and while I don't usually enjoy romance, I liked this one because it was slow-building.
What I Disliked:
- There were definitely areas of this book that felt very rushed. The pacing was off. I found myself almost missing so many twists because they'd been casually mentioned and didn't feel like 'big reveals' and it was a little irritating. That paired with the constant jumping around from POV to POV made feel a little confused about who I'm supposed to be supporting and who is actually 'the good guy'. The thing is while Ahdieh's character's were vibrant they lacked detail backstory which meant I had little idea about what was actually happening. Who is the villain in this story? I'm not sure!
- There were a fair few plot-lines in this book - mostly political. I felt like very few of them were resolved by the book's conclusion. I don't mid cliffhangers in a series, and I understand they are a great device for bringing readers back. But I believe there needs to be a certain amount of resolution and there was absolutely none. Such a shame!
Don't get me wrong, this was a great book. Well thought-out and researched, with a wonderful sense of atmosphere. It was fun to read with good vibes that gave me a sense of attachment to the story. I'll definitely be coming back to this series. My complaints come from a place of frustration with how the plot direction was handled. Twists and turns need to be built up to. Characters need backstory. And most importantly there needs to be at least some resolution at the end!