Format: Hardcover, 392 pages
Release Date: May 16th 2017
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
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.
“Be as swift as the wind. As silent as the forest. As fierce as the fire. As unshakable as the mountain. And you can do anything...”
Flame in the Mist is the first installment in author Renee Ahdeh's Flame in the Mist series. The story begins with 17-year old Mariko Hattori, the main protagonist of this story, being sent away to Inako where she is to meet her betrothed Prince Raiden. Along the way, her norimono is attacked by a mysterious group who Mariko believes belongs to the dreaded Black Clan. As the only survivor, Mariko has to make a choice; return home to her family where they will most likely send her on to Inako, or disguise herself as a boy and track down the Black Clan who she believes is responsible for attacking her group.
Mariko chooses the second option, and away on a fantastical adventure we go. It has been said by many people that this story reminded them of 47 Ronin meets Mulan. I can get behind that comparison. I loved the strength that Mariko shows throughout this book. She is a very curious person who loves to learn. Even though, at times, she is rather foolhardy, far too prone to ask questions that can get her in trouble, and being in the wrong place at the wrong time, she does manage to catch the readers fantasy as a character who doesn't lay down and let others dictate terms to her.
“Sometimes we must fall forward to keep moving. Remain motionless—remain unyielding—and you are as good as dead. Death follows indecision, like a twisted shadow. Fall forward. Keep moving. Even if you must pick yourself up first.”
One of the other things I loved about Mariko, is that she is an inventor who is in a world all her own. As the daughter of a noted Samurai, and the sister of Kenshin, known as the dragon, she has tries to carve out a niche all her own. She knows that she is a political pawn to be used by her father, but at the same time, once she does contact the Black Clan, she comes into her own by upping her game even more. She has an golden opportunity to not only find out who ordered her death, but discover a world that would be open to her had she been born a boy.
This story isn't just about Mariko though. Kenshin plays a part as he tries track down his twin sister, and discover whether she is dead or alive and who was behind the attack on her convoy. Kenshin is the absolute opposite of Mariko. He is hard, and cold, and dangerous. We also find ourselves deep in political intrigue in what is feudal Japan and the Empire of the Wa. We meet the very twisted royal family where nothing is at it seems, and the key players who all have an apparent agenda just waiting to be sprung. Then, there is the curious connection between Mariko and Okami and his ability to shape shift. This is a story that is filled with action, adventures, surprises, betrayals, bloodsucking trees, samurai, sorcerers, and a bit of romance.