Title: Flame in the Mist
Author: Renee Adhieh
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.
I had mixed feelings about this book, especially because I expected a lot from it because I’m a huge fan of Renee Adhieh’s first 2 books. It actually started off slow for me, because I wasn’t well-versed with the Japanese culture (aside from the food) so I only had a couple of movies that I could picture out in the setting and the history, and I had to keep flipping through the glossary pages to understand what most of the terms were. Not to mention the slow pace at the beginning of the book that just added to my over-all confusion. I also kept getting some of the characters’s names mixed up for most of the part until I finally got the hang of it. Let’s just say that I was in a constant state of confusion.
The story only picked up whenever I would encounter Kenshin’s chapters because they were more interesting to read than Mariko’s parts in the beginning. As much as I enjoyed Mariko’s character, she was a bit of a bore to me at the beginning, but I only got to adore her character in the latter chapters of the book. I found it a bit disappointing that this is a book that I can’t connect quickly to the main characters, thus it kept me from fully enjoying it. The romance part was a bit meh for me, and as much as Okami and Mariko were cute together, I didn’t found the appeal of it. Probably because I couldn’t also connect to Okami’s character that well.
But one thing that I did love about the book is the theme of women empowerment. Even now, Japan is still a country that doesn’t think women are equal to men, and the book tackled it extremely well! Female characters, in the form of Mariko and Yumi, were highlighted beautifully as someone who can keep up and do well just as the men do. They acknowledged that most of society would look down on them and think of them only serving one purpose, but they managed to break down those walls and do something great. I really really really loved that!
I’m definitely going to read the second book coming out this year, as we were left off with another cliffhanger. Nothing to major, but still a cliffhanger.