I finished reading Flame in the Mist a while ago and still not over it!!
I love this book, if you can’t tell by the obvious title of this post. FIVE out of FIVE stars.
[the cover links to goodreads]
But first, I want to talk about the Mulan retelling part of this book. If you don’t really care, you can just skip this part to the review!
There was a controversy (I don’t know if it would be called that, but whatever) and basically it consisted of this:
- Having a cross dressing girl doesn’t necessitate that it’s a Mulan retelling.
- The Mulan retelling part was used as a marketing ploy
- The only other connections it’s a Mulan retelling is because they both come from asian cultures
- That it’s offensive to Chinese and other cultures.
- This came from a VERY interesting post! I recommend you read it here.
Personally, I haven’t found it offensive or anything (I’m Chinese, which I don’t think I’ve
mentioned before) but I don’t really have a perspective on what is discussed in the post I linked you to. Because I wasn’t alive during those times and I live in North America and never learned about it??
And yes, I suppose that it would be a marketing ploy, but people would still buy the books because a) diversity! and b) Leigh Bardugo. Is there more to say?
So I also read another post talking about how it’s not a retelling, per se, but more of an inspired story. When I read the book I definitely saw some parallels between the book and the movie, and I totally recognized them!
But for now, I’m going to say that this book was INSPIRED by Mulan, not a RETELLING. So, yes, I said that it was a retelling in my review on Goodreads but I take it back!
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 loved Mariko so much. This basically describes her:
- able to read people
And she attacks people?? Like YES PLEASE I WANT FIGHTING. Ok, more info: her character was really well developed! It was an action story but also a “discovering yourself” type of story, and I love how she finds friends and kind of has a “crew” by the end of the book.
I especially love how she’s not always good at everything. She actually has to train and work hard in order to become better; she’s not just “from the start of the book” able to defeat everyone/win. She actually fails quite a lot (just like me… and everyone that ever existed), which was kind of refreshing to see. And another really funny point is this: she actually didn’t mean to infiltrate their clan!
And Ōkami! He and Mulan have a kind of hate-to-love relationship, and it was well developed! They had so many jabs at each other, and the banter was A++
(Banter almost always guarantees happiness from me)
Another great part of this was the friendship vibes?? Mulan and the other members of the Black Clan actually become really close (well, mostly with one other person in specific) and it was fun seeing the protection feelings of friendship. Although she infiltrated their Clan the inner war she had with herself was really well described. I’m sure everyone has felt this way before.
Renee Ahdieh’s mind is great, as well, because the plot did NOT fail to impress me! There were so many plot twists that left my mind like this:
And it was so absorbing! I read this book in one go* I can’t say more about the plot except that it was EXCITING!
Oh, and I forgot to mention the sibling-ness! This is dual narrated by Kenshin (sorry, forgot to mention that) and he’s ALSO a very tactical person. He’s extremely good at fighting and tracking and I could totally relate to his sibling mentality. As I got into his head I ended up rooting for him to find Mariko as well at some points! I love how much he cares about his sister.
The writing.. was beautiful! I actually read someone’s (I think Emily May?? I’m not sure, though) review where they said that her writing was too exaggerated and I can definitely see their point. A couple of times I was confused as to what was going on and had to go back and check what was happening but pffft that happens to me ALL THE TIME. I still really liked the writing and although it WAS kind of hard for me to get into during the first 5% that was probably because I was reading it on my phone… while walking to my sister’s school with SCORCHING** HEAT.
Also, the diversity?? I’m so glad that there have been more books with asian MC’s and characters because YAY.
*Which isn’t surprising since I read rather fast but HUMOR ME PLEASE.
**accurate temperature. what do you mean I get hot super easily
[goodreads review] it’s slightly… different?? I had a LIST review which was much shorter.
I think the point of this review is: you should go and read this book immediately and TELL ME YOUR THOUGHTS because I THOUGHT IT WAS BEAUTIFUL.
Have YOU read any of Renee Ahdieh’s books? Because I HAVE AND THEY ARE SO GOOD. What do you feel about the Mulan retelling interpretation? Are you fangirling over the cover? Because I AM.