Where the Stars Rise: Asian Science Fiction and Fantasy by Lucas K. Law (editor), Derwin Mak (editor),

Where the stars rise cover

ALL EMOTIONS ARE UNIVERSAL. 

WE LIVE, WE DREAM, WE STRIVE, WE DIE . . .

Follow twenty-three science fiction and fantasy authors on their journeys through Asia and beyond. Stories that explore magic and science. Stories about love, revenge, and choices. Stories that challenge ideas about race, belonging, and politics. Stories about where we come from and where we are going.

Each wrestling between ghostly pasts and uncertain future. Each trying to find a voice in history.

Orphans and drug-smuggling in deep space. Mechanical arms in steampunk Vancouver. Djinns and espionage in futuristic Istanbul. Humanoid robot in steamy Kerala. Monsters in the jungles of Cebu. Historic time travel in Gyeongbok Palace. A rocket launch in post-apocalyptic Tokyo. A drunken ghost in Song Dynasty China. A displaced refugee skating on an ice planet. And much more.

Embrace them as you take on their journeys. And don’t look back . . .

AUTHORS: Anne Carly Abad, Deepak Bharathan, Joyce Chng, Miki Dare, S.B. Divya, Pamela Q. Fernandes, Calvin D. Jim, Minsoo Kang, Fonda Lee, Gabriela Lee, Karin Lowachee, Rati Mehrotra, E.C. Myers, Tony Pi, Angela Yuriko Smith, Priya Sridhar, Amanda Sun, Naru Dames Sundar, Jeremy Szal, Regina Kanyu Wang (translated by Shaoyan Hu), Diana Xin, Melissa Yuan-Innes, Ruhan Zhao.

My Review of Where the Stars Rise: Asian Science Fiction and Fantasy

Where the Stars Rise: Asian Science Fiction and FantasyWhere the Stars Rise: Asian Science Fiction and Fantasy by Lucas K. Law
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I very much enjoyed this short story collection. The stories are a mix of sci-fi and fantasy and there are some absolute gems in it. I have loads of authors now I want to read more of!

My favourite stories include Back to Myan by Regina Kanyu Wang, Weaving Silk by Amanda Sun, A Star is Born by Miki Dare, The Bridge of Dangerous Longings by Rati Mehrotra and Old Souls by Fonda Lee.

Back to Myan is pure sci-fi. A mermaid on an alien planet whose home world overheats. She is evacuated and her tail replaced with legs so that she can live on other planets.

Weaving Silk is a beautifully written story about two sisters trying to survive in a city after an earthquake killed their parents and cut the city off from the outside world.

In A Star is Born an old lady in a home has found a way to time travel back to earlier points of her life.

The Bridge of Dangerous Longings is an unusual story about a bridge that will kill you if you try to cross it.

Old Souls is a tale about reincarnation, and a young woman who can not only remember her own previous lifes, but also see the past lifes of everyone she comes into contact with.

There are a couple of stories that I didn’t get on with, one that I just couldn’t follow and one that I didn’t get the point of, but overall the quality is very high.

I highly recommend this, it’s an interesting and high quality collection and it’s probably going to be one of my favourite books of this year. I hope they make volume two soon!

I received a free copy from the publisher in return for an honest review.

Where the Stars Rise: Asian Science Fiction and Fantasy
Lucas K. Law (editor), Derwin Mak (editor)
Sci-Fi
October 8th 2017
Kindle
352

The Prophetess by Desy Smith

the prophetess

Fallen from Heaven and forced to live amongst the humans in exile, angel Ezekiel bares the tragic fate of a disgraced angel. Having overheard the rebellious Lucifer’s plans to rise up against the sanctuary of Heaven Ezekiel remains silent. For his inaction he is cast from the pearly gates and into the unforgiving lands of the mortals. Two thousand years pass  and  Ezekiel resigns himself to his fate.

However, in the year 2016 the winds of fate begin to change and Ezekiel is given a chance to return to his home. If Ezekiel can stop Molach from helping Lucifer return he will be welcomed back into Heaven. However, there is more than just a demon in his path. Ezekiel must uncover what else fate has in store for him, including a lovely solitary Prophetess named Isabelle and the endless possibility for joy and whimsy she offers.

My review of The Prophetess

The Prophetess by Desy Smith
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’m struggling to give a rating for this one. I enjoyed the story but there are a lot of issues with it.

It’s massively in need of a good editing. There’s a lot of spelling mistakes, and some layout issues that make it difficult to tell which character is speaking. A lot of the action doesn’t flow, it jumps between scenes and things don’t logically follow on from each other. I think it’s self published though so I can forgive things like this, a good editor will sort things like this.

I had major issues with Isabelle. Meant to be 23, she acts like she’s 13. Rude, aggressive, immature and completely unlikable. Branding other women as whores because they give a man their phone number (or for any reason really) is inexcusable. Knowing your own mind and standing up for yourself is good but whinging and throwing insults around doesn’t achieve anything.

Ezekiel is the saving grace in this book. I liked his character, and I enjoyed reading his viewpoint. And I loved the thing with the gold dust from his wings!

There’s a decent story in here too as much as I disliked Isabelle I was enjoying the romance that was building up between the two of them. I genuinely felt a bit angry when the book ended because I wanted to see where it was going! There is some good world building in places, but most of the scenes ended up too focused on Isabelle instead of on what was happening. A lot of chances at creating atmosphere or pulling the reader into the story were missed.

I hated Isabelle but I liked the story and Ezekiel is lovely. I’m think I’m going to have to go with three stars, simply because of the feeling when it ended. Surely that’s the best judge of a book?

I received a free copy from the author in return for an honest review.

The Prophetess
Desy Smith
Urban Fantasy
170

Artemis by Andy Weir

Artemis Cover

Jazz Bashara is a criminal.

Well, sort of. Life on Artemis, the first and only city on the moon, is tough if you’re not a rich tourist or an eccentric billionaire. So smuggling in the occasional harmless bit of contraband barely counts, right? Not when you’ve got debts to pay and your job as a porter barely covers the rent.

Everything changes when Jazz sees the chance to commit the perfect crime, with a reward too lucrative to turn down. But pulling off the impossible is just the start of her problems, as she learns that she’s stepped square into a conspiracy for control of Artemis itself—and that now, her only chance at survival lies in a gambit even riskier than the first.

My Review of Artemis

ArtemisArtemis by Andy Weir
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jazz Bashira is not a hero and doesn’t ever pretend to be one. Arrogant and sarcastic, she’s a character I can’t decide if I like or not.

She is very intelligent but her intelligence has made her lazy. She wants to be rich without having to work for her money and that, combined with some bad decisions as a teenager, has led her to smuggling contraband into the moon city as an easy way to support herself.

When a rich moon resident that she smuggles cigars for offers her a large amount of money to sabotage Artemis’ oxygen production she jumps at the chance. Even though she knows it’s a bad idea.

The plot is gripping and very readable, I powered through this in a single day while waiting for the gas service person to turn up. It’s well paced and exciting and I like the way it’s written. I wasn’t massively keen on the ending but I think it was in keeping with the characters personalities.

I loved the moon city setting and the author did a good job of world building. The author has put a lot of thought into what a city on the moon would be like and the little details are never forgotten about, like how the difference in gravity affects things. I could quite happily have followed Jazz about her normal life in Artemis for the whole book.

And the science! I’ve no idea if it’s accurate or not (I hope it is) but my absolute favourite thing about this book is all the science. I love the way it’s such a big part of the story.

There are things I loved about this book (the science and the moon city) and things I wasn’t so keen on (the stupid life decisions Jazz makes). But even though I often wanted to throw something at Jazz I still enjoyed reading about her.

So I’m probably a 3 star for the story, but the moon city setting and the fact that it’s crammed full of science take it up to 4 stars for me.

I received a free copy of the book in return for an honest review.

Artemis
Andy Weir
Sci-Fi
November 14th 2017
Hardback
384

Sentient (The Mentalist Series #2) by Kenechi Udogu

Sentient Cover

Mastering her Progressive Empath abilities isn’t going as well as Gemma hoped. In fact, months after finding out what she really is, she still has no clue what this truly means. All she can do is wait to see if any new abilities will eventually manifest.

When she is plagued by recurring nightmares, Gemma realises things are changing and knows she has to do something, fast. The arrival of two sets of strangers in town, both offering the much-needed assistance she needs to unearth her powers, escalates the situation even further.

Gemma attempts to decipher whose intentions are genuine, but does she have enough time to figure out who has her best interest at heart?

My Review of Sentient

Sentient (The Mentalist Series, #2)Sentient by Kenechi Udogu
My rating:
3 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this sequel to Aversion, though I don’t think it’s perfect. It has the same flaw as the first book in that the story is told in a stream of consciousness from Gemma. It reads like a diary entry, and I found it hard to get a picture of what Gemma’s world is like.

Though saying that, this second book in the series does flesh out a lot of the details around Aversion and the Avertor’s community and politics. In terms of world-building, it is an improvement on the first book, which felt a bit like it was happening in an isolated bubble.

We get some really interesting new characters, and I think where this series really excels is in its character creation and development. Russ and Gemma are both great characters. They are genuine and realistic and they are very sweet together! I like the introduction of Laura and I’d love to see her get more page time in the next book.

Gemma is running the risk becoming a bit of a special snowflake. She has powers that no one has heard of before, and they keep appearing from nowhere with no precedents. It could have been interesting to see how she deals with them but most of the book is about Gemma thinking about her new powers and worrying about them. Her internal narration comes across as genuine and self-deprecating though, and that stops things from getting irritating.

Even with the diary style narration I still found this book easy to get into and enjoyable to read. Just a bit less thinking and a bit more plot next time, please!

I received a free copy from the author in return for an honest review.

Sentient
The Mentalist
Kenechi Udogu
Young Adult Fantasy
October 27th 2013
Kindle
155

Dead Man’s Chest (Phryne Fisher #18) by Kerry Greenwood

Dead Mans Chest Cover

The gloriously unflappable Miss Phryne Fisher returns in this deadly treasure hunt.

Travelling at high speed in her beloved Hispano-Suiza accompanied by her maid and trusted companion Dot, her two adoptive daughters Jane and Ruth, and their dog Molly, The Hon Miss Phryne Fisher is off to Queenscliff. She’d promised everyone a nice holiday by the sea with absolutely no murders, but when they arrive at their rented accommodation that doesn’t seem likely at all.

An empty house, a gang of teenage louts, a fisherboy saved, and the mystery of a missing butler and his wife seem to lead inexorably towards a hunt for buried treasure by the sea. But what information might the curious Surrealists be able to contribute? Phryne knows to what depths people will sink for greed but with a glass of champagne in one hand and a pearl-handled Beretta in the other, no-one is getting past her.

‘Missing housekeepers and secretive Satie-swaying, patchouli-soaked surealists are all part of the scene, plus, of course, a whiff of delicious murder.’ Australian Women’s Weekly

‘If you haven’t yet met the delectable Miss Phryne Fisher, it is certainly time that you did.’ Ballarat Courier

My Review of Dead Man’s Chest

Dead Man's Chest (Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries #18)Dead Man’s Chest by Kerry Greenwood
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Super easy to get into. From the first paragraph, I was drawn straight into Phryne Fisher’s world. The writing is wonderful and made the book feel more real to me than my actual life!

And all the food descriptions! Knowing what characters what like to eat makes them 10x more realistic to me. There are even about 3 recipes at the end of the book for some of the food they ate. And little gems like this made me smile:

“Dot supplied herself, Jane, Ruth and Tinker with cocoa and a few biscuits to guard against night starvation.”

I can relate to people that aren’t happy until they have planned when and what their next meal will be.

Descriptions of people are so well done I could imagine myself there in the book next to them.

“Madame Sélavy was tall, thin and haggard. Her face was bony, her nose beaky, her eyes as bright as pins. She was heavily made-up, white paint and red lips and kohl around the eyes. She wore a draped gown which Princess Eugenie might have considered overdecorated, dripping with black and gold bugle beads, embroideries, tassels and fringes to the utmost tolerance of woven cloth. She smelt strongly of patchouli. Rings burdened every finger, her neck was wrapped in pearl-studded chains and a band of brilliants encircled her throat. “

The main mystery was solved by an unlikely coincidence. I can forgive this because there was some decent investigating up to that point and Phryne did solve one of the sub-mysteries. That was enough to keep me happy so I’m not too bothered about the coincidence that was thrown in there.

There are a few loose ends that I can’t work out. I’m not entirely sure what the point of the treasure hunt was, or what the bit in the cave near the end was about.  And when the two men tried to abduct Phryne, who was watching from the neighbour’s house and why?

Everything else about the book I loved. I’ve read two in the series now and Phryne Fisher is already one of my favourite book characters. You’ve got to admire a woman that will quite happily abandon her clothes if it helps her escape the grasp of an attacker.

An absolute delight, this is a feel-good story that is perfect for a weekend of indulgent reading.

I received a free copy from the publisher in return for an honest review. 

Dead Man's Chest
Phryne Fisher
Kerry Greenwood
Mystery
January 1st 2010
Kindle
250

Queen of the Flowers by Kerry Greenwood

Queen of the Flowers Cover

With more than a dash of glamour and serious helpings of style, the witty and courageous Miss Fisher returns.

In 1928 St Kilda’s streets hang with fairy lights. Magic shows, marionettes, tea dances, tango competitions, lifesaving demonstrations, lantern shows, and picnics on the beach are all part of the Flower Parade.

And who else should be chosen to be Queen of the Flowers but the gorgeous, charming and terribly fashionable Hon Phryne Fisher? Phryne needs a new dress and a swimming costume but she also needs a lot of courage to confront her problems: a missing daughter, the return of an old lover, and a young woman found drowned at the beach at Elwood.

‘Kerry Greenwood is one of Australia’s leading writers of mystery fiction . . . Miss Fisher is a remarkable and engaging creature who can solve whodunnits as easily as if she were the naughty niece of Miss Marple’ – Sydney Morning Herald

‘Greenwood’s prose has a dagger in its garter; her hero is raunchy and promiscuous in the best sense’ – Weekend Australian

‘Fisher, a feisty sophisticate of the 1920s whose honour lies with the greater good. She’s all class and intelligence: a seductive creature with a great wardrobe.’ Australian Style

My review of Queen of the Flowers

Queen of the FlowersQueen of the Flowers by Kerry Greenwood
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I requested this through Netgalley as soon as I saw it because I am a big fan of the TV series!

I was a bit worried before I started reading that it wouldn’t live up to the TV version and would just end up ruining it for me. As soon as I started reading I realised my fears were groundless. The book version of Phryne Fisher is smarter, bubblier, sharper, just more than the TV version.

The characters are very likeable and I just love the descriptions of them. Phryne is an absolute delight to read. I love her independence and her outlook on life.

One of my favourite things about the TV series is the banter between Phryne and Inspector Jack Robinson. I thought I would miss it in the book but I actually like that’s it not there because it seemed to give the character of Phryne more room to breathe.

The tone stays light but the mystery ended up going in a quite dark direction, and Phryne does some decent investigating. I feel it does get a bit convoluted with two different stories going on and a few dips into the past thrown in. There were a few too many coincidences in Ruth’s story and it didn’t make sense why some of the people did the things they did.

I liked the main mystery though, and I found that once I read the first chapter I couldn’t put it down.

This is just like a glass of wine in book format. It’s all bubbles and lightness and the story fizzes along. I love the world the author has created and I will definitely be reading more of the series!

I received a free copy from the publisher in return for an honest review.

Queen of the Flowers
Phryne Fisher
Kerry Greenwood
Mystery
2004
Kindle
287

I Am Behind You (Platserna #1) by John Ajvide Lindqvist

I Am Behind You Cover

A supernatural superthriller from the author of Let the Right One In

Molly wakes her mother to go to the toilet. The campsite is strangely blank. The toilet block has gone. Everything else has gone too. This is a place with no sun. No god.

Just four families remain. Each has done something to bring them here – each denies they deserve it. Until they see what’s coming over the horizon, moving irrevocably towards them. Their worst mistake. Their darkest fear.

And for just one of them, their homecoming.

This gripping conceptual horror takes you deep into one of the most macabre and unique imaginations writing in the genre. On family, on children, Lindqvist writes in a way that tears the heart and twists the soul. I Am Behind You turns the world upside down and, disturbing, terrifying and shattering by turns, it will suck you in.

My Review of I Am Behind You

I Am Behind YouI Am Behind You by John Ajvide Lindqvist
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Bizarre, creepy, unsettling, enthralling. I’m not entirely sure what I just read, but I think I liked it.

Getting off to a slow start the first half of the book is almost a character study. The characters are investigating the place they have found themselves, but at the same time it goes in depth into their personalities, and their back stories. Most of them are unpleasant people that have done bad things at one point or another, or been through traumatic events. But the dog Benny, the little boy Emil and the farmers Lennart and Olof were all likeable enough to be able to emphasise with them.

The second half it all goes crazy. I’m not going to spoil it by talking about it, but it’s surreal, original, deeply unsettling, and I could not put it down. I just want someone now who can explain it all for me.

Don’t read this if you need an answer to where they are or how they got there. But if you like making up your own ideas about things, and if you like stories that are odd and scary, then this is for you!

I received a free copy in return for an honest review.

I Am Behind You
Platserna
John Ajvide Lindqvist, Marlaine Delargy (Translator)
Horror
September 7th 2017
Kindle
416

The Growing Season by Helen Sedgwick

The Growing Season Cover

Now anyone can have a baby. With FullLife’s safe and affordable healthcare plan, why risk a natural birth?

Without the pouch, Eva might not have been born. And yet she has sacrificed her career, and maybe even her relationship, campaigning against FullLife’s biotech baby pouches. Despite her efforts, everyone prefers a world where women are liberated from danger and constraint and all can share the joy of childbearing. Perhaps FullLife has helped transform society for the better? But just as Eva decides to accept this, she discovers that something strange is happening at FullLife.

Piotr hasn’t seen Eva in years. Not since their life together dissolved in tragedy. But Piotr’s a journalist who has also uncovered something sinister about FullLife. What drove him and Eva apart may just bring them back together, as they search for the truth behind FullLife’s closed doors, and face a truth of their own.

A beautiful story about family, loss and what our future might hold, The Growing Season is an original and powerful novel by a rising talent.

The Growing SeasonThe Growing Season by Helen Sedgwick
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Warm, thoughtful and kind. It presents some big issues but brings a human side to give them meaning.

The Growing Season is set in an alternate version of our world, differing from ours only in the invention of the biotech baby pouch two generations ago. The pouch is an artificial womb that allows babies to be incubated outside of the human body. FullLife own the patent for the pouch and have marketed it so successfully as an end to inequality and the dangers of childbirth that natural births are rare.

Eva is carrying on her mother’s work of campaigning against the pouch. She believes that the technology has moved too fast, that as a society we did not stop to think about the issues, and now we are blind to any problems that the pouch brings along with it.

Holly had the very first pouch baby and is now a poster girl for FullLife. She is about to have her first grandchild, and she loves the pouch and the freedom and choices it brings for parents.

The book takes a very balanced view of the issues and presents both sides of the argument. It looks at the benefits of allowing both men and women to be involved in carrying the unborn child, how it allows people to be parents that otherwise wouldn’t be able to, and how it protects women from the dangers of childbirth.

We are also shown the other side – how it could enable domestic abuse, how it affects society in negative ways, how we adopt technology so quickly that we don’t think about the side effects, or what happens when it goes wrong. It also touches on the dangers of allowing one big company to have such a monopoly on our lives, and how it excludes those who live in poverty even further.

So it’s tackling big issues and could very easily have been dry and preachy. But Sedgwick makes them accessible by giving them a human face and showing how they affect people personally. Through Eva and Holly, she tells a warm and moving story about people. Their lives and families take up a big part of the book. I never felt like she was pushing the discussion about the issues or forcing an opinion on me, the story always comes first.

I thought it would be hard to read, so much so that I almost picked up something else when I was too tired to concentrate, but I gave this a go and got drawn in straight away. The writing is beautiful, almost lyrical at times and I flew through it because I cared so much about the characters.

Highly recommend this one if you like sci-fi, women’s issues, ethics in technology, or if you just like stories about people.

The Growing Season
Helen Sedgwick
Sci-Fi
September 7th 2017
Kindle
302

Ensnared by Rita Stradling

Ensnared Cover

Ensnared Blurb

A Near-Future Retelling of Beauty and the Beast

Alainn’s father is not a bad man. He’s a genius and an inventor. When he’s hired to create the robot Rose, Alainn knows taking the money is a mistake.

Rose acts like a human. She looks exactly like Alainn. But, something in her comes out wrong.

To save her father from a five year prison sentence, Alainn takes Rose’s place. She says goodbye to the sun and goes to live in a tower no human is allowed to enter. She becomes the prisoner of a man no human is allowed to see.

Believing that a life of servitude lies ahead, Alainn finds a very different fate awaits her in the company of the strange, scarred recluse.

This novel contains adult situations and is only suitable for readers who are 18+.

My Review of Ensnared

EnsnaredEnsnared by Rita Stradling
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Ensnared is based on Beauty and the Beast, but it takes the basic idea and runs with it, throwing in sci-fi elements with automatons, AI, and self-aware robots.

I was expecting a young adult story from the blurb, but it’s aimed at adults.

If I’m being honest the story is daft, there’s not a lot of world building, and there are plot holes you can drive a truck through. But it’s also a lot of fun, with likeable characters.

I liked Alainn, she’s independent and not afraid to speak her mind, but she’s not perfect. She’s not overly intelligent and is prone to taking risks that endanger her life. It’s this daredevil impulse that leads her to agree to impersonate the robot Lorccan has ordered to save her father from going to jail. It (kind of) makes sense in context.

Lorccan is a recluse who is scared of germs and has little to no experience of other people. I can almost believe he doesn’t realise that he got a real person instead of a robot, even though Alainn is very, very bad at pretending to be a robot. She doesn’t even think about how she is going to eat, so almost starves herself at first. I think about food all the time, so if I was going to have to pretend to be a robot somewhere it’s probably the first thing I would worry about.

I liked that Lorcann’s problems aren’t magically fixed by the power of lurve. At the end of the book, he still can’t leave his home for fear of germs. It’s clear that it’s a bigger, ongoing issue that Alainn can’t fix for him.

My favourite character in this has to be Shelley. She has anxiety, and battles with herself when she pushes herself way out of her comfort zone to help Alainn when things go wrong. She reaches a point where she can’t force herself any further and leaves with the police instead of escaping with Alainn. I loved that she wasn’t treated as a coward for this, instead, Alainn thanks her and calls her a badass.

If you want something that’s not going to tax your brain and you can just enjoy reading it, then this is a good choice. I read it in a day, I didn’t want to put it down. I even had to have it propped up in front of me while I was brushing my teeth!

I received a free copy from the publisher in return for an honest review.

Ensnared
Rita Stradling
Sci-Fi
May 23rd 2017
Kindle
419

Flame in the Mist (Flame in the Mist, #1) by Renee Ahdieh

flame in the mist

Flame in the Mist Blurb

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.

My Review of Flame in the Mist

Flame in the Mist (Flame in the Mist, #1)Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh

My big problem with this book is that I did not like Mariko. She doesn’t have much of a personality. We’re told over and over how intelligent she is, how brilliant a planner she is, but never once does she do anything to show us.

In fact, her actions are often kinda dumb and driven by reacting rather than thinking. Joining a group of male outlaws to prove her honour and virtue? And why does she give her smoke bombs to the people trying to track and kill her brother?

Markio’s loyalty to her family does not last very long. I understand her not wanting to go back there, but she tells us that she does, that her family comes before everything. Her change in attitude is not given enough attention to make it believable.

Neither is her attitude towards the Black Clan. She goes from wanting revenge on them, to wanting to join them, but this about-face isn’t fully fleshed out so it just felt like she changed on a whim.

Literally Mariko’s feelings towards to the Black Clan: “They killed my servants I hate them I want revenge”, “Oh hang on, he’s kinda cute.”, “I want to join them and fight with them, I would die for them.

She has so much potential to be smart and interesting, she’s even an inventor! But for me she falls flat.

The pacing is slow too, Mariko does a lot of thinking about things but the few bits where something happens seem rushed and fuzzily described. I didn’t get a good sense of what was going on.

The magic system is also fuzzy and vague. It looks like it might be expanded on in future books but it didn’t make much sense here and was just confusing.

Another big issue for me is the writing and the awkward, convoluted conversations the characters have. They seem to talk in quotes that could have come straight from one of those quote of the day calendars and don’t make seem to actually be responding to each other. It’s like a dance battle but with quotes instead.

Things I did like though include:

The setting – the forest, the Black Clans camp, the tea house – when an effort is made to describe the setting it’s done well.

Mariko can’t fight – she is smart enough to realise this so she doesn’t even try. It’s nice that her strength is supposed to be in her intelligence rather than her fighting skills. I love female characters than can think their way out of situations.

Interesting characters – Mariko’s brother, the Emperors wives, the men of Black Clan, even Markio herself, they are all interesting and imperfect characters with hidden secrets.

Okami – I really liked his character. He keeps more secrets than Mariko, he has some sort of weird magic power, and he treats Mariko like an equal and doesn’t try to protect her because she is female. He also has the best line in the book: “the only power any man has over you is the power you give him.”.

There is enough I liked in this book that I enjoyed reading it, I certainly finished it fast. It has potential but I just want Mariko to show us that she is as smart as everyone tells us she is.

I received a free copy from the publisher in return for an honest review.

Flame in the Mist
Flame in the Mist
Renee Ahdieh
Young Adult Fantasy
May 16th 2017
Kindle
393