Aaah there are so many cool things to share in this post for the blog tour! First, THIS BOOK IS AMAZING. I posted my review and some pictures below, as well as the link to Goodreads so you can add it to your TBR.
Then, make sure to enter the awesome giveaway at the bottom. And finally…. check out this preorder campaign to win a trip to meet Renee Ahdieh:
About the Author:
Renée Ahdieh is the author of the #1 New York Times bestselling The Wrath and the Dawn and The Rose and the Dagger. In her spare time, she likes to dance salsa and collect shoes. She is passionate about all kinds of curry, rescue dogs, and college basketball. The first few years of her life were spent in a high-rise in South Korea; consequently, Renée enjoys having her head in the clouds. She lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, with her husband and their tiny overlord of a dog.
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.
- Page Count: 368
- Release Date: May 16, 2017
- My Rating: 4.5 stars
This book too me a bit to get into, but by the end I was totally fangirling and cannot wait for the sequel!! (Very minor general spoilers here… nothing too serious).
“Be as swift as the wind. As silent as the forest. As fierce as the fire. As unshakable as the mountain.”
The story starts with a young boy watching his father’s execution, which provides some background on the emperor’s sketchy decisions and the boy’s future motivations. This all gets wonderfully complex, but I also don’t want to spoil the plot. So maybe just take my word for it that this story is WAY more elaborate than I’m going to make it sound…
The main character Mariko has been raised in a sheltered, very privileged life so she could someday marry well and elevate her father’s social standing. She’s on her way to marry the prince when her convoy is attacked by the Black Clan. Bravery doesn’t come naturally to Mariko, who’s more of a planner. Her mind is her strongest weapon and she’s invented some pretty neat things. But right from the start of the story, she’s forced to take action. An ongoing theme is how “we choose what we are in any situation, be it a word or an idea.”
Mariko knows if she returns home, her parents would just send her off to marry the prince again. So she disguises herself as a
guy and sets off to learn who tried to kill her and why. She wants to “keep her family’s honor intact and prove her worth beyond the marriage market.”
Her brother Kenshin is a samurai known as The Dragon of Kai. His POV tracks Mariko and shows his hardened resolve to get revenge on the Black Clan for a mounting list of reasons. Kenshin & Mariko’s close relationship is both adorable and heartbreaking as they start to have opposing goals.
Mariko ends up joining the Black Clan with the goal to “follow orders. Engender trust. Strike when they least expect it.”But they turn out to be different than she thought. As they rob the rich and give to the poor, Mariko discovers her father’s been treating others poorly and wakes up to a new reality: “true weakness is weakness of spirit. Mariko had lived a life of wealth and privilege. A life spent blissfully unaware of the suffering around her.”
Mariko has some truly incredible character growth over the course of the story as she decides she won’t be a useless prize to be sold and begins to fight for the new home she’s found. I absolutely loved how stubborn, fierce, and honorable she was. She learns that “the only power any man has over you is the power you give him.”
I loved so many of the Black Clan members, but Okami is the greatest. He’s a leader who eventually teaches Mariko to fight and it’s quite possibly one of the most adorable hate-to-love romances I’ve found. I just ship them SO MUCH. I had a stupid grin on my face in so many parts. Okami’s an amazing feminist and neither one of them is looking to the other to complete them: “she was not a half. She was wholly her own.”
All of the characters are super well done, actually… their decisions all make total sense (even the ones you hate to see happen). I liked how Okami’s character has a ton of depth and is fighting a lot of inner battles, too. The pages are pretty much packed with his wise insights on life:
“I believe we are all things, depending on the situation. Given the right time and the right circumstance, any man or woman can be water or fire or earth or metal.”
“You deny the truth of our inclinations.”
“No. I deny being a slave to any one thing. In any situation we can choose who we are and choose who we want to be.”
Renee Ahdieh also makes some amazing statements on the different kinds of strength of women. I’ve been getting tired of books that try to create strong female characters by showing how they don’t need a man etc because that is STILL defining women through men… it’s just by a guy’s absence in that case. I wanted to hug this book for allowing the women to be complete characters in their own right without fitting any one particular image of strength.
At one point the Black Clan goes to a tea house, where Mariko asks a geiko if she’s angry to have been born a woman:
“There have been times I’ve been angry at how the world treats us, but I see being a woman as a challenge I must fight. Like being born under a stormy sky. Some people are lucky enough to be born on a bright summer’s day. Maybe we were born under clouds. No wind. No rain. Just a mountain of clouds we must climb each morning so that we may see the sun.”
You know a story’s good when you don’t want it to end and are still thinking about the characters later. It did kind of lose my attention a bit in the first half, but the last half just kept getting better and better! Honestly, the plot was really well paced. And I absolutely loved the setting, too – it’s an amazingly detailed, gorgeous version of feudal Japan with hints of magic. There are political schemes, realistic social issues, and some seriously hilarious moments.
A lot of people are asking if this is better or worse than The Wrath and the Dawn, so let me just say that they’re different books. That’s about it. The styles feel different, but I don’t think that necessarily means one is “better.” They were both 5 star reads for me!
Update: the publisher marketed this as a retelling of Mulan. Epic Reads listed this as a retelling in their Book Shimmy Awards. I did not come up with the “Mulan retelling” comparison on my own out of some absurd idea that China and Japan are interchangeable (??)
I had this pitched to me as a “loose retelling of Mulan set in feudal Japan,” but the few similar elements (like how the main character disguised herself as a guy, doesn’t want the other guy fighters to discover her identity, has an awkward bathing scene, was trained to fight by the leader whom she eventually falls for, etc) are pretty general ones. When I originally said elements reminded me of Mulan, that was in no way because it’s set in an Asian country. Retellings place themes or aspects of a story into a new context, so I was never once merging Chinese and Japanese cultures in my mind. If I said that Cinder was a retelling of Cinderella, would that imply that I think Chinese and French cultures are interchangeable?
But I think “retelling” (or even “inspired by”) is a bit of a stretch when it comes to this story anyways, so I just took that part out of my review. In the end this really is its own wonderful story!
Thank you to the publisher for sending me an ARC. The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Enter for a chance to win one (1) of five (5) copies of Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh (ARV: $17.99 each).
NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Enter between 12:00 AM Eastern Time on May 8, 2017 and 12:00 AM on June 5, 2017. Open to residents of the fifty United States and the District of Columbia who are 13 and older. Winners will be selected at random on or about June 10, 2017. Odds of winning depend on number of eligible entries received. Void where prohibited or restricted by law.
Check out the rest of the tour!
May 8 – Two Chicks on Books – Author Q&A
May 9 – The Eater of Books! – Mood Board
May 10 – Book Hounds YA – Guest Post
May 11 – YA Book Central – Excerpt
May 12 – A Page With A View – Review + Photos
May 15 – The Young Folks – Guest Post
May 16 – Once Upon a Twilight – Author Q&A
May 17 – The Fandom – Guest Post
May 18 – Alexa Loves Books – Bookish Style File
May 19 – Fiction Fare – Review
May 22 – Brittany’s Book Rambles – Review
May 23 – ButterMyBooks – Review + Photos
May 24 – Mundie Moms – Author Q&A
May 25 – A Perfection Called Books – Review
May 26 – Novel Novice – Flame Pinsperation
May 29 – Twirling Pages – Review + Photos
May 30 – Tales of the Ravenous Reader – Guest Post
May 31 – Oh the Book Feels – Review
June 1 – Dark Faerie Tales – Author Q&A
June 2 – The Book’s Buzz – Japanese Lesson