Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Flame in the Mist by Renée Ahdieh | Re:View

Enthralling and inventive, Flame in the Mist will grip you with its creativity, delight you with its humor, and hold you to the end, leaving you wanting more.

*** 

I absolutely loved this book! I wasn't sure what to expect when I first chose to read it for review - I knew it was "making the rounds" as a new, popular YA Fantasy but I was hesitant to pick it up. Not for any other reason than that my TBR is rather insane and I had other books I was working through...but this cover drew me in. It tricked me, luring me to give in. So I did. I am SO glad I did!

From the moment I began Flame in the Mist, I was hooked. Ahdieh's writing is lyrical and beautiful. Like a song played by a skilled musician, you can't help but sit and listen--or in this case, read. And read I did. I ran through pages and pages with ease because of the story as well as the skill of the story-weaver.

I was intrigued by the characters. Mariko is such a beautiful, complex character who is at once strong and weak in the best ways. Strong so that we can view her as a she truly is, and weak so that we can see her shortcomings and where growth must happen. On a note about Mariko and women in general in Flame in the Mist, I really appreciated how Ahdieh represented women in this book. None of the girls were "looking for a hero to save them" (as some even stated) and the bent was definitely toward strong, female protagonists, but not for the sake of strength alone. It was about finding the beauty and strength in being a woman, not becoming like a man to find that strength (which is slightly ironic giving the plotline). Mariko's strength was in who she was as a person, not her gender, but her gender didn't mean she was weak either. I like that both men and women were portrayed as strong in this book, working alongside one another.

I won't say more about characters at this point since I don't want to give away even the smallest of spoilers, but I will say the web of intricate characters Ahdieh weaves is beautiful and complex.

@createexploreread
The setting and magic depicted in the book was also delightful. If anything, I would have loved to know and see more of the magic. I did enjoy how it was woven into the plot, but sometimes it left me wanting more or an acknowledgment of its strange nature within context. The characters just seemed to accept it without question which, without being given a reason for this acceptance, seemed strange to me.

Lastly, I am a little frustrated that I didn't realize this was a series. While the ending was not exactly a cliffhanger...it kind of was. It doesn't take away from the beauty of the story or writing, nor does it diminish my love for this book, but it does make me a little annoyed that I have to wait (probably a year) before I get book 2. *sigh*

I highly recommend this to lovers of YA Fantasy (or Fantasy in general). I think you'll find it enjoyable as well as intriguing.

*A final word*
I have heard some say that the plot is a loose retelling of the elements of Mulan into Japanese culture and, personally, I'm really enjoyed having that thought in the back of my mind because, loving the story of Mulan as I do, it made me think of that story with fondness and be able to appreciate the skill and ingenuity that Ahdieh wove her own tale. It's not exact to Mulan's story, but there are things that are similar in a good, creative way. That said, I think the Flame in the Mist is completely its own story and diverges in all the right ways.

A note to my clean readers: This book was relatively clean - there were a few cuss words and some kissing scenes as well. I'd probably rate it for ages 15+.

My rating: 5*
Purchase (comes out May 16, 2017): Flame in the Mist (book 1)

Book Description
(from Amazon)
The daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has long known her place—she may be an accomplished alchemist, whose cunning rivals that of her brother Kenshin, but because she is not a boy, her future has always been out of her hands. At just seventeen years old, Mariko is promised to Minamoto Raiden, the son of the emperor's favorite consort—a political marriage that will elevate her family's standing. But en route to the imperial city of Inako, Mariko narrowly escapes a bloody ambush by a dangerous gang of bandits known as the Black Clan, who she learns has been hired to kill her before she reaches the palace.
Dressed as a peasant boy, Mariko sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan and track 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.
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I received this book for free from the publisher but was under no obligation to post a review. I do so under my own motivation and the opinions I have expressed in this review are honest and entirely my own.