“You are first and foremost a person. A reckless, foolish person, but a person nonetheless. If I ever say you are not permitted to do something, rest assured that the last reason I would ever say so would be because you are a girl.”
― Renee Ahdieh,
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.
Eden: I was very excited to get back into a Renee Ahdieh book after having read and loved The Wrath and the Dawn. With that said, Flame in the Mist didn’t disappoint. All of what made me love The Wrath and the Dawn made me love Flame in the Mist. Overall, I gave Flame in the Mist 4/5 stars.
Caitlynn: I’m so happy to have another Ahdieh book in my life and of course she doesn’t disappoint by any means. Ahdieh’ s story-telling skills are out of this world and truly makes her books so interesting to read. 4.5/5 stars.
Jenn: I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Ahdieh does an amazing job of both creating beautiful worlds and creating diverse and interesting characters. The ending of this book has made me crazy because I can’t wait to read the next one. Overall, I gave it 4/5 stars.
Eden: I gave it 5 out of 5 stars.
Jenn: I have it 4 out of 5 stars.
Caitlynn: I did 4.5
E: I gave it 5 out of 5 because I really enjoyed the book. Also, the things that I disliked in it I really didn’t want tot take a star off for it. So, I just said 5 out of 5. Also, I love Renee Ahdieh’s storytelling abilities. She does a great job roping me in and making me hold on.
C: I agree. I gave it 4.5 because it took me a long time to get into it. The first half of it kind of drug for me and I don’t know why.
E: Really? The first half? Because, it took me about 70 pages for me to really get into it. But, that was because she had so many points of view it was difficult to get into. Also, she was throwing so many words at me that I didn’t know it was a little rough going. But, it wasn’t the first half of the book for me by any means. Once I sat down and did I thought it was great.
C: It was probably when they got to the Imperial city. I don’t know why because I really liked the book. Maybe like you said it was because there was a lot that I didn’t understand.That’s not a fault of the book obviously. But, it took me a while to get into.
E: Jenn, why’d you give it 4 stars?
J: I gave it 4 stars because I really really enjoyed it. I really loved this book and I’m excited for the next one. But, I kind of felt like there was a case of instalove throughout it so that kind of knocked it down for me.
E: So, your issue was different from my issue. Caitlynn, did you feel like there was instalove?
C: Umm, it’s like a very odd case of instalove for me. I don’t know. I don’t know if I would categorize it as instalove.
J: I didn’t feel like there was any build. I felt like they knew each other, things happened, and then all of a sudden they’re saying that they’re into each other. There was no gradual understanding of each other.
C: It went from intrigue to too far.
J: And it’s one thing if it’s just lust driven, but it showed in the first interaction that it wasn’t just lust. They talked about how much they loved each other for other reasons.
E: Did you think it was an issue of pacing or just the book itself?
J: I think it was pacing and part of it was that it was a long book and she had a lot to build. So, I think she was wanting to set the tone for the next book by introducing that whole relationship. So, I don’t know that there is a “better” way to do that to include the relationship and still get the background of the world. It just felt very rushed. Maybe it was because I read through it really quickly and didn’t pause when reading it. Perhaps if I would have taken my time through the book I’d have a different mentality. But, I doubt it.
E: The thing that bothered me about it was there were moments where he was really aggressive. These were moments that if it were me it would scare me. She would kind of romanticize that at times. For instance, there’s one time where he pins her against the wall with her feet off the ground and she’s like, “I’m not scared of you.”
J: I didn’t read it as her trying to romanticize it. I read it as her trying to prove her strength and the whole facade that she’s got going on. I continued to see it as her trying to go above and beyond to show that she’s strong. I read it as a weak soldier going up against the best commander and trying to prove themselves.
E: That makes sense. I just read it and I thought it was creepy.
J: Well, and I looked at it as Mulan the whole time too. So, I was like “Yeah Shang, she isn’t scared of you!”
E: See, I looked at it as Mulan but I also looked at it separately. So, I felt weird about it.
J: Was it because she’s female that you felt uncomfortable about it?
E: No, it was just they way she’d talk about it at times. She would say things like “I just want to kiss him silent.” Right after these things would happen. So, it felt like she was romanticizing the aggression. It isn’t the reaction you should have.
J: I didn’t think the two were connected. I thought her attraction to him was that he challenged her. Everyone else kind of wrote her off and didn’t push her. Where he continued to push her as far as he could. So, I thought her attraction was that he was treating her as his equal rather than being talked down to.
E: How did you like Okami?
J: I loved Okami.
E: Okami was easily my favorite character in this book.
C: I feel like I liked the supporting characters more than the main characters in this book. Like, I liked Yoshi a lot.
E: I liked Yoshi.
C: Also, like Ren at the beginning of the book? I had such strong feelings about him. I like Ahdieh’s characters in all of her books. But, I loved all of the cast of characters in this book.
E: Yeah, she did a really good job.
J: I also really liked Okami’s sister.
E: There was a point that I got really annoyed with her. There was a point where I closed the book and went. “OKAY YUMI!”
E: She said something about the true nature of Okami and Renmaru. And I was like, “Okay, Yumi who has known them her whole life. Of course you know they’re true selves.”
E: What did you guys think of Roku?
J: I didn’t really think anything about him.
E: I thought he was such a little creep.
E: Caitlynn, you read both of the books for The Wrath in the Dawn by Ahdieh. How did you feel this book stacked up against those?
C: It’s a totally different book and it feels totally different. The writing style is the same but everything else about it is different for me. Except both have a very strong female protagonist.
J: Yeah, I agree. Basing it just off the first books in a series I enjoyed them both equally. Both had components in books that I really enjoy.
E: What I really like about her and her writing is that we’ve had two stories about women who aren’t superior in their ability to fight. In a lot of fantasy novels all we see are women who are warriors because they can fight. Instead they have minds that are superior. They defeat people by being really clever. I think it would be great to ask her what intrigues her about that so much. If we look to other fantasy authors most of their characters are really physical people. Where Shaz and Mariko valued intelligence over physicality.
J: I don’t know that other writers don’t want to have their female characters be known for their intelligence. I think it’s just hard to successfully do it. When you label someone as super intelligent it can be difficult to build interactions around that without it becoming a caricature. That’s where a lot of people find a hard time creating that character. Because, it turns into a stereotype so easily. I think that’s where Ahdieh really excels. For her characters we know that they’re intelligent and superior in their minds but it doesn’t become the only thing you know about them and it doesn’t take over their whole character.
E: I was thinking about that earlier. These women are in crappy situations but they can use their minds to protect themselves and get themselves out of it.
J: I enjoyed that they included some STEM in there with her being an engineer.
E: I liked that too. I was impressed that they included that.
C: I’m glad we finally got to find out what the throwing stars on the cover were.
E: I’m hoping the throwing stars come into play more in the next book. Because, I was very interested in the idea of what she was doing with them.
C: Along with what you said about these characters, Eden with both of these books I feel like I want to strive to be like them. I look up to them because of their intelligence or cleverness and they way they present themselves. They’re both in communities where it’s common for them to be looked down upon for their gender. So, it’s nice to see them beat it with their minds rather than having to do crazy things.
J: I also appreciate that it’s not one town with her books. Shazi was much more street smart and sly. Whereas Mariko was the polar opposite. She was book smart and she was intelligent because of her privileged up bringing. So, I liked that we were able to see both sides of that in Ahdieh’s books. I liked how both were empowered by their intelligence.
E: I think it’s good to note that she’s creating characters that teenage girls can look at and be proud of that character. I know when I was in middle school I was embarassed to show people the contemporaries I was reading because they were “girl” books. Whereas with these books they’re not your typical “girl” books.
J: I just really enjoyed it. I’m not very happy that I have to wait for the next book.
E: I’m excited for the next one but I’m not as disappointed as Jenn is that I can’t read the next one yet.
J: I’m very disappointed that I can’t read it right now.
C: I’m not as frustrated as I was with Strange the Dreamer. Reading that book really killed me. I think it put me in a reading slump.
E: Because, of this I don’t know what to read this.
J: It’s making me want to read more.
E: It’s making me want to read more. I just don’t know what to read after it. I’m trying to find something that will stack up against it.