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
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.