Flame in the Mist

Written by Renée Ahdieh
Review by Viviane Crystal

Mariko, the daughter of a renowned samurai family in medieval Japan, is totally unlike any of her female counterparts, having an insatiable curiosity, intelligence and a serious passion for male battle. More importantly, she is learning to listen as well as shock her family and friends by blurting out what she thinks. However, now she accepts her role to marry the son of the Emperor’s favorite consort—a match that will raise the status of her family even higher than its present noble position.

On her way to the marriage ceremony, her convoy is attached by the Black Klan, and during the attack Mariko realizes the goal of the attackers is to kill her. Once again, her clever skills and a fortuitous interruption enable her to escape. Her lack of survival skills in the magical forest where the Black Klan hides is faced, and then Mariko changes her appearance to that of a young boy. It seems stereotypical up to this point but quickly changes as Mariko is kidnapped anew. This, then, is the essence of the story: the transformation of Mariko’s personality and where that change leads.

Sheer brutality, satirical dialogue that seems incredible, a magical sword, names and deeds that parallel Japanese folklore tales, a brother’s singular motivation to rescue his sister, an Emperor whose wives and his own weakness are headed for disaster, and so much more fill these pages for an unusual read and a startling ending for unsuspecting readers—historical fiction with fantasy twists! This is an interesting novel with whispers or slight parallels to Lian Hearn’s Tales of the Otori.