ARC/Book Review: Flame in the Mist – Renée Ahdieh

Title: Flame in the Mist (2017)
Series: Flame in the Mist – Book 1
Author: Renée Ahdieh
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Extent: 400 pages
Release Date: May 18, 2017
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Goodreads Description

Mariko has always known that being a woman means she’s not in control of her own fate. But Mariko is the daughter of a prominent samurai and a cunning alchemist in her own right, and she refuses to be ignored. When she is ambushed by a group of bandits known as the Black Clan enroute to a political marriage to Minamoto Raiden – the emperor’s son – Mariko realises she has two choices: she can wait to be rescued… or she can take matters into her own hands, hunt down the clan and find the person who wants her dead.

Disguising herself as a peasant boy, Mariko infiltrates the Black Clan’s hideout and befriends their leader, the rebel ronin Ranmaru, and his second-in-command, Okami. Ranmaru and Okami warm to Mariko, impressed by her intellect and ingenuity. But as Mariko gets closer to the Black Clan, she uncovers a dark history of secrets that will force her to question everything she’s ever known.


I’ve been looking forward to Flame in the Mist ever since I finished The Rose and the Dagger last year. Shazi and Khalid’s love story was one I happily immersed myself in, and I loved every word and enjoyed every minute of it — which is why I was supremely disappointed, to say the least, that Flame in the Mist didn’t quite manage to captivate me in the same way.

This is the story of Mariko Hattori, a nobleman’s daughter who infiltrates a gang of bandits by disguising herself as a boy. Surprisingly capable and tough, she finds herself rising through the ranks and earning the trust of two of the gang’s most important people. Of course, that leads to a whole host of new problems.

“I’ve never been 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.”

For me, Flame in the Mist was a bit of a chore to get through. Despite some of the action starting right off the bat, I found myself uninterested in the plot or the characters until about the 60% percent mark, after which it’s a little bit too late for the book to really engage me. A lot of this is probably because I didn’t find being in Mariko’s head a natural thing — a lot of her decisions didn’t make sense to me, and I was skeptical of her thought processes.

The second reason why I didn’t find this book all that enjoyable, unfortunately, was that I found the writing to be a bit of a disappointment. In TWATD, Ahdieh’s writing was luminous — it flowed well, it was descriptive without being too flowery, it was rich and evocative — but here, I found it choppy and forced. Her descriptions were still beautiful, but somehow, it just felt a bit much.

“Be as swift as the wind. As silent as the forest. As fierce as the fire. As unshakable as the mountain. And you can do anything…”

That doesn’t mean that Flame in the Mist is all bad, however. I’ve read somewhere that this was a Mulan retelling, but I find that to be inaccurate — the similarities stop at “girl pretends she’s a boy to join a group of men” and after that, it’s really more of an original story with its own twists and turns. That, at least, keeps it somewhat interesting when things finally picked up.

Overall not a terrible read, but not quite what I expected with Ahdieh’s name on the cover! I appreciate the feminist angle and the world-building, but the characters and the plot let me down, and at this point, I’m not sure I’m interested enough to ever pick up the sequel.

* I received an ARC of FLAME IN THE MIST from the publisher via NetGalley.

34 thoughts on “ARC/Book Review: Flame in the Mist – Renée Ahdieh

  1. I’ve heard nothing but great things about this book, so I’m so sad to hear it didn’t meet your expectations. 😦 I can definitely see where you’re coming from though – it’s hard to like a book when you just can’t connect to the characters or enjoy the plot. Thanks for sharing and, as always, fabulous review! ❤


  2. Oh thank god I’m not alone!!!! I wanted to stop reading this one so badly but I had anticipated it for so long I couldn’t give up. Her writing in The Wrath and the Dawn was just gorgeous, but in this one it was so choppy and felt forced as you said. It took me about 70% to get into it. And that romance?!?? Omg was that necessary? It was out of left field and was so awkward. I LOVED the Wrath and the dawn so very much. But I won’t continue with this series sadly


    • I’m glad I’m not alone too! That’s exactly how I felt with this book: I’ve been looking forward to it so much, it feels sad to just give up on it in the middle. I didn’t really care for the romance either way, but I was expecting more, perhaps? Yeah, it just didn’t work for me overall, which is a shame because like you said TWATD was gorgeous. 🙈

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh no! It’s sucks that you were disappointed in this book. I’ve been really looking forward to it but I’ll go in more cautiously now. People are only calling it a Mulan retelling because of the girl disguising herself as a boy and because it’s Asian. It’s really not a retelling at all and a lot of people have been pointing that out.


  4. Oh no, I’m so sorry this book didn’t live up to expectations. This book has undoubtedly been one of my most anticipated but I fear I may have over hyped it for myself. I’ve seen a lot of comments about the misguided Mulan retelling angle but I’m actually relieved to find that the concept it a bit more original. I’ll have to lower my expectations for this book but I’ll still give it a read and see how I fare. 😀


    • The concept is definitely more original, but I can’t say that anything really surprised me either in it. Regardless, plenty of people love it and I hope you’re one of them! Ahdieh’s just so promising. 😂


  5. Oh no! I have to admit, when I clicked on your post and saw your rating for this, I asked myself “OH oh, what happened here?”, because I expected you would enjoy that one. I’m sorry to hear that was not the case, and that Renee’s beautiful writing in TWATD wasn’t there anymore in that same way, that instead it felt like it was trying too hard :/ I’m still eager to read that one, but I think I’ll go in with less expectations, since I always know I can trust your taste in books. Thanks for the review, Reg! ❤ ❤


    • I expected the same too! It’s just a shame that this one didn’t really work out for me, but at least the general consensus from other bloggers is that it’s an enjoyable, beautiful book anyway. I hope you enjoy it better than I did, Marie, and I can’t wait to hear your thoughts. 💖

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m sorry this book didn’t live up to expectations 😦 That’s always a horrible feeling. While I enjoyed this book for the most part, I completely understand where you’re coming from! I don’t think it quite lived up to my expectations, either. It felt like it took a long time for anything of substance to happen, and the ending felt a bit rushed. I really enjoyed the feminist aspect of the story as well as the attention to detail, but the romance felt a bit forced for me. I saw more potential in a strong friendship rather than a romantic relationship between the two. If you do decide to pick up the second book, hopefully it proves to be much more enjoyable for you! Fantastic review as always, Reg! ❤


    • Yeees, you’ve articulated how I feel so succinctly! There’s just too little in it to make me fall in love with the setting, the characters or the romance, and by the time that there is something, it’s already a bit too late. Sorry to hear that it didn’t quite live up to your expectations too and I hope you enjoy the second book better, if you’re planning on reading it. 💖

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Oh I’m so sorry this book didn’t live up to your expectations Reg, I know you were looking forwards to this one and I know you loved Renee Ahdieh’s first series too so this must be a serious disappointment for you. I loved Flame in the Mist but it was interesting reading another perspective on the story, if that makes sense. I haven’t seen too many reviews for this one but to be honest I haven’t really been looking for them. You likely weren’t the only one disappointed in this book which is a shame because it always sucks when books you’re eagerly anticipating don’t live up to what you hope they’ll be. Hopefully the next book you pick up will be a better read for you, and great review as well Reg! 🙂 ❤


    • Haha, thanks! I’m sure most people do too – perhaps it’s just that hyped books tend to be 50/50 with me? 😂 And yeah, that’s exactly how I feel about this book. It just comes across as forced.


  8. Aw, I’m sorry this didn’t live up to your expectations. 😦 I really, really loved Ahdieh’s other books too – she flew to the top of my “auto-buy authors” list, but I’ve been hearing mixed things about this one… so I’m not sure what to make of it while going into it. I have heard from enough people that I need to disregard the Mulan comparisons, because it’s really nothing like that at all – but if the characters are a let-down? I don’t know if I’ll be able to get past that. Really thorough and great review, Reg!

    ~ Aimal @ Bookshelves & Paperbacks


    • Ahdieh flew to the top of my auto-buy authors list too with her previous series, which is why I was so excited for this one! It’s not for me, but it can still be for you – I know plenty of other reviewers who said the characters were amazing. I guess books are like that. 😂

      Thanks, Aimal! I hope you enjoy this one better if/when you get to it. 💖


  9. I enjoyed FitM overall, but I definitely agree with some of the things you’ve said. It also took me a long time to really feel interested in the story as I found the beginning to be quite boring. And I completely agree that it being described as a Mulan retelling is inaccurate. Like you said, aside from a girl pretending to be a boy, there aren’t really any other similarities. Great review, Reg!


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