Why I Struggled with The Flame in the Mist

June 17, 2017 by Jeann @ Happy Indulgence | 2 stars, Books, Reviews

Why I Struggled with The Flame in the MistFlame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh
Series: Flame in the Mist #1
Published by Hachette Australia, Hodder & Stoughton on May 18, 2017
Source: Publisher
Genres: Fantasy, Historical, Young Adult
Amazon | Book Depository | Publisher | Booktopia
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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 ranks of the Black Clan, determined to track down the person responsible for the target on her back. But she's quickly captured and taken to the Black Clan’s secret hideout, where she meets their leader, the rebel ronin Takeda Ranmaru, and his second-in-command, his best friend Okami. Still believing her to be a boy, Ranmaru and Okami eventually warm to Mariko, impressed by her intellect and ingenuity. As Mariko gets closer to the Black Clan, she uncovers a dark history of secrets, of betrayal and murder, which will force her to question everything she's ever known.

A Mulan inspired story set in historical Japan, what’s not to love about Flame in the Mist? Unfortunately, I found it to be a disappointing read, wishing it was something it was not.

The novel starts out strong as the Emperor’s daughter Mariko, finds herself as the target of the Black Clan bandits and barely escapes with her life. In order to gain vengeance and prevent this threat from her royal family, she dresses as a boy and joins the Black Clan to find out their plans.

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.

After she joins the Black Clan however, the novel really slows down as Mariko gets to know each and every one of them. She’s fearless, sarcastic and often tests the leaders of the Clan, and I had no idea why they let this mysterious stranger who they know IS LYING TO THEM get away with it. Already, I began questioning what the motives of the Black Clan were, who are supposedly murderers and thieves. With the honourable Okami, who is a fearless Wolf set to train Mariko in weapons and thievery, and the leader Raiden, Mariko begins warming to the clan. Even though they sought out to kill her.

I found I had to constantly suspend my disbelief during Mariko’s journey, as she continually snarks out the leaders of the Black Clan. At one stage, she even lodges a THROWING STAR in Okami’s back, with little consequence. This is brushed off and to my further disbelief, a romance blooms from this. It happens suddenly built upon lies, lies between each other, lies to the people they trust in. I can’t really get behind a romance like this.

I liked Mariko’s sass, intellect and drive to do what’s right, but I thought she brushed aside her initial beliefs too easily and betrayal happens too quickly. Like The Wrath and the Dawn, the same type of twist occurs and I felt like I saw it coming from a mile away. There’s a strong thread of feminism in the book, which I appreciated as Mariko constantly questioned why she couldn’t do things that males did. But I liked the lesson she learnt, that women could wield influence in other ways.

The perspective shifts to her brother Kenshin who is the Dragon of Kai, a famed samurai of the Emperor. He’s known for honour, for violence and for doing what’s right. But as we hear more of him, my perspective of him shifted – he was incredibly boring and we were repetitively told the same thing about him every time he appeared. He’s searching for Mariko, he wants to find Mariko, Mariko couldn’t have done this, Mariko couldn’t have done that. His character felt really forced to me.

I’ve been blind to so much. I’ve thought I possessed the truth so often. When in truth I’ve possessed nothing.

If you’re interested in Flame in the Mist, you probably want to know about how the Japanese setting was pulled off. Set in an undisclosed part of historical Japan, I loved the beautiful cherry blossoms, the throwing stars and the maiko who appeared in the story. With Abdieh’s enchanting writing, I was transported to the land of the rising sun. However, it didn’t feel entirely authentic to me for some reason.

The names of the characters, reflecting Japanese anime and pop culture had me constantly questioning the validity of the story though, which could’ve been entirely a coincidence, but pulled me out of the story (eg. Kenshin from the anime Rurouni Kenshin, Raiden from Mortal Kombat, etc.).

As a YA historical fantasy set in the Eastern setting, I definitely had high expectations for Flame in the Mist. Unfortunately, due to the forced characters and plot, I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would. It’s a slow read where you have to suspend your disbelief at times, although I did appreciate the Japanese setting.

By the way, there’s a glossary at the back for the Japanese words used in the story. You’re welcome.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

Thanks Hachette Australia for the review copy of the book.

Flame in the Mist is available from Australian bookstores for RRP$19.99.

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Jeann is an Aussie blogger, gamer, reader who loves to read, write, fangirl, geek out and eat food. You can find me glued to one of my many mobile devices 24/7, or fangirling over the latest YA book, TV show, movie or game. Chat with me on Twitter @happyindulgence

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21 responses to “Why I Struggled with The Flame in the Mist

  1. Sorry to see that this didn’t meet your expectations! Which is sad because I have a copy of this, and I really want to love this so bad. I guess I’ll have to lower my expectations a bit. I did like the Wrath and the Dawn, so hopefully I will at least enjoy this. Thanks for the review Jeann! (but I did kind of skimmed it since I’ll be reading this soon!)
    Valerie recently posted…A Bunch of Reviews All In OneMy Profile

  2. Nooo, so very sad! I am so sorry this was a miss for you! I am really worried about it, because yours isn’t the first negative review I’ve read- but you explained your reasons so well, and they would be problems for me. The disbelief bit especially would be hard to stomach. Ugh. It’s such a shame that this was a letdown for you. (And thanks for the glossary tip in case I do give it a shot 😉 )
    Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight recently posted…And Then There Were Four by Nancy Werlin: Blog Tour & ReviewMy Profile

  3. Oh no, I’m so sad to hear that this one was hard to get through. I still want to give it a go though, but I will probably go in with little to no expectations now. That seems to work for me more often than not!

  4. Sorry to hear you didn’t love this! I found it hard to get into at many times and often there were many plot holes present in the story but overall, I found it to be engaging, maybe because I didn’t really know what it was about going into it or have any expectations. Sorry to hear this was a miss for you though Jeann and thanks for sharing!

  5. Is it bad that I’m glad that I’m not the only black sheep here? xD My biggest issue is how similar the plot and characters with TWATD. You can compare the characters with the characters in TWATD and they’ll be the same. Kenshin, for example, is exactly like Tariq. I’m curious enough about Okami’s power and for the closure, so I’m going to keep reading. Great review Jeann, and I hope your next read will be better!
    tasya @ the literary huntress recently posted…ARCs and MaterialismMy Profile

    • Yeah, it seems like more and more people are voicing similar opinions for this book. I felt like this was so similar to TWATD, even the same frustrations that I had with it. I did like Okami, but yeah I probably won’t continue with the next book. Thank you Tasya!

  6. Sooo not surprised here Jeann. After your reaction with TWATD (and my own reaction for TFITM), I knew this would be a miss for you. Maybe it’s just Ahdieh’s writing that just doesn’t mesh!

  7. Gahh sadness that this didn’t live up to expectations. I won a copy so at least I didn’t waste money? But gajfhgu I hate it when books seem SO GOOD and then they fail by being boring or having bleh logic. Like I probably wouldn’t be pleased if someone threw a throwing star at me. I mean, I’m not pleased when someone doesn’t give me cake, so actually throwing things at me takes it to a whole new level of fierceness. *sigh* I’ll go in with much lowered expectations!
    Cait @ Paper Fury recently posted…How To Edit Your Novel (Without Dying Or Setting Your Hair On Fire)My Profile

    • Yeah, I just don’t think the author is for me TBH because of my reaction to her first book too. I know lots of people love it, but it seems I just have to suspend my disbelief a bit too much in these books. At least the cover is pretty, am I right

    • Grace Osas @ Somewhat Reserved

      Honestly, after seeing the reviews of book bloggers who’ve reviewed this book, I’m not interested in reading it anymore :/

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