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Today I am going to be reviewing Flame in the Mist by Renée Ahdieh. I have to admit, I was really disappointed with this book. It had such a cool premise, and being based off of one of my favorite Disney princesses, I was prepared to be totally blown away. Maybe the fact that I had such high expectations put the book in a worse light. I really disliked our heroine, Mariko and we will get more into that later. I will say that I did get immersed around page 200, when the plot became about more than just Mariko. The fact that it took me so long to fall into a writing style that I am usually easily ensnared in is a little upsetting. Overall, my problem with this book stems from the fact that a lot of things in it irritated me.
I have to discuss this romance. After reading The Wrath and the Dawn and The Rose and the Dagger, it would be an understatement to say that I had high hopes for this, but it sadly fell short for me. There was no buildup, none. The minute Okami discovers that Mariko is a girl, they start making out! Apart from like one mention of attraction on Mariko’s side, these two HATED each other. Even in the interactions that they had after, it felt very flat and forced. That one scene at the end, when Okapi comes into Mariko’s tent, all the dialogue was so unnatural. I actually felt a little uncomfortable reading it. To add on, there were these certain “love lines” that Mariko and Okami said to each other that I guess were supposed to be swoon worthy? To me, they were awkward.
Mariko is one of the MOST ANNOYING characters I have ever read in YA. Every single page is talking about how smart she is. I get it! She’s smart. I don’t need to constantly hear about it, especially from Mariko, herself. Not to mention, her motives lack the intelligence she brags about having. Why would Mariko join the Black Clan in the first place? I get that it was to drive the plot and to prove that she’s more than just a girl, but would being a part of a notorious group really bring honor upon her family? I also don’t like how even just reading from her perspective gives me the impression that she thinks she’s better than everyone else. I think it stems from the fact that a lot of what she says sound quite preachy.
Do I even know enough about Okami to talk about him? His character was so vague. Beyond his physical appearance and a tiny snippet of his past, I KNOW NOTHING. I think this is also a part of why I found the romance to be so weird. I was given no reason to believe that he truly loves Mariko.
Kenshin was straight up crazy. He was fine the first couple of times we saw him, but after he became way too obsessed with finding Mariko. I have a similar problem with him and Okami, I don’t know them. I obviously know about his actions, yet I don’t know anything of substance about his true personality. How am I supposed to care about someone it feels like I have only briefly met?
To me, Ranmaru felt inconsistent. His actions didn’t always line up with what he said and vice versa. Beyond that, I don’t know enough about him to comment.
With Yumi, it becomes apparent that there is a trend of having cardboard characters in this book. Yum intrigued me at first, so I wish I got to see more of her. However, by the time of her last scene, she was a completely different person and all of that previous complexity vanished.
Like I mentioned before, most of the plot is hinged on one of Mariko’s stupid decisions. Therefore, the story arc doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. It became more of what I wanted it to be after the plot twists were thrown in. I did have to go back to look up names and events in order to understand why these twists were such big deals. To clarify, I was reading closely and not skimming at all. When plot twists are well done I should know instantly what’s going on and it should all make sense. I should not have to go back and reread before I get shocked. Adding to that, these big things were mentioned two times each, tops. So it was hard to follow when they suddenly reappear on the last pages.
In this book there were a lot of terms that I did;t understand. Luckily, there was a glossary for that. It really pulled me out of the story, though, having to constantly flip to the back of the book. This couldn’t have been avoided, it was just something that slightly irked me.
This book is supposed to be a retelling of Mulan, but beyond Mariko pretending to be a boy, I didn’t see it. Milan is strong, brave, smart, and had real reasons for pretending to be a boy. The plot lines between the two are vastly different and to say that Mariko is on the same level as Mulan is an offense to Mulan’s character and story.
I am disheartened to say that I can’t give this book a rating higher than 3 stars. I love the author and actually enjoyed her writing style in her other books. For some reason, it didn’t work well for this story. I have also been seeing so much praise for this book. I wish it clicked for me like it clicked for all of them. I am annoyed with this book, yet I do intend to finish the series.
Thank you for reading my review and I hope you will join me again as we go off to amazing places.