The Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh

This was pretty gripping from the get go. Mariko is on her way to be married when her entourage is attacked. The attackers don’t realise they’ve left her alive and because she is near Jukai Forest she believes the deed has been perpetrated by the infamous Black Clan. Hoping to betray the Black Clan and revenge the deaths of her servants, Mariko makes her way through the forest inserting herself into the group dressed as a boy. Adventures ensue.

I loved that Mariko is not a helpless heroine. Despite the setting, she doesn’t necessarily conform to gender roles of the period, which I appreciated. It is written in such a way that it fits in the narrative and isn’t a contemporary implant into that age. I also liked that matter what situation she gets in and despite at times being harrowing, she is always thinking and intrepid, which was quite refreshing to read. She most definitely displays bushidō!

I adored the setting. So often fantasy, particularly in the YA I come across seems to have a very European backdrop. Japan, the culture and mythology is so rich and I felt how it was portrayed was vivid and exciting. Plus, much sweeping court intrigues and magical elements. I think this reminded me a little of Robin Hood and the rising tide of anger amongst the people against the powers that be. There was a little romance and while the tension ramps up a little towards the end of the book it didn’t feel like a total cliff hanger.

I cannot wait for the next book in the series!

Grade B +

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