Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh - Book Review

* I received an e-ARC of this book from Penguin Young Readers Group via NetGalley in an exchange for an honest review. As always, I only every write my true thoughts * 

Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh
Publication date: May 16, 2017
My rating: 3 stars

I'm disappointed.

Not the first words I wanted to write.
Not the first words I wanted to be read. 

But they also bring comfort. Because for one to be truly disappointed with something or someone one must care enough in the first place.
And I truly do care - about Renee Ahdieh's stories, about her characters, about her words and worlds. I knew it from the moment I read The Wrath & The Dawn and I know it now despite my disappointment. 

First things first, a few details about Flame in the Mist:

  • This is not really a Mulan retelling.
    Now, now, I don't mean it in a bad way, just as a statement. Since everyone say it's a Mulan retelling everyone who love Mulan (myself included) go into it with a lot of certain expectations. But aside from the fact that it's a story about a girl who disguises herself as a boy at a time where women are not treated fairly nor taken seriously, there are no other similarities to Mulan. Honestly speaking, I wouldn't even have thought of Mulan, reading this story, if it hadn't been for the people saying it's a retelling. So no, this story stands on its own with no deep connections to Mulan.
    Certainly, it could be very loosely inspired by the infamous Mulan, but no more than that.
  • The story follows Mariko, the daughter of a Samurai, as she infiltrates the ranks of a group known as The Black Clan. Shortly after her convoy was attacked on her way to her arranged marriage to prince Raiden, Mariko sets on a journey of self-discovery and self-worth to prove herself capable of undermining the people behind the attempt on her life. Needless to say, things do not go well and Mariko soon finds herself in much deeper trouble then she realizes.
  • There's romance, which was sweet yet confused me (no insta-love or love triangle).
  • This story is very different from The Wrath & The Dawn. For starters, I found it much harder to get into. It didn't... flow like The Wrath & The Dawn did for me. It was rather - well, rather a lot - descriptive. In terms of places, characters, scenes... I found a lot of the descriptions too hard to follow and even to the point where they interfered with some of the enjoyment in the book. They were beautiful and unique, but hard to get into. I could see the beauty in them, but they didn't tug at my heart, didn't make me feel as though they were necessary for me. This might very well be a matter of taste, since I'm not all that fond of overly-descriptive books and complicated metaphors. I found myself craving more dialouge, less descriptions. More activity, less thoughts.
  • Most of the story is from Mariko's POV, but there are multiple POV's (out of those most of them are from Mariko's brother POV).
    In that sense, it was very much like the trouble I had with The Wrath & The Dawn. At first, the multiple POV's were interesting. Quickly enough they wore out on me and I couldn't find why they were even necessary to the progression of the story. All I wanted was to get back to Mariko and her love interest (whose name I won't say since it's all the fun figuring this out on your own *wink*).
  • It takes place in ancient Japan, which I loved (Japanese obsessed over here) - we're definitely lacking in books that take place in Japan.
    When writing a story that takes place in a place like Japan, it's important to do your research. And I felt like Renee Ahdieh did it extremely well. Maybe too well, though, since it felt like it had a lot to do with the over-descriptive problem I've been having with it.
My problems with Flame in the Mist

We barely get anything our of everything.

No, seriously, I read an entire book just here and yet I feel like I learned nothing.
I feel like stuff happened without even the reader realizing how they happened.
Like the romance - it just sort of happened with no development. Like one minute it wasn't and the next... it was. 
The development of their relationship (from enemies to lovers) was lacking in a way I had a hard time believing came from the author who wrote such a complex and engaging love story in The Wrath & The Dawn.
And while I did find myself rooting for those two, I couldn't shake my disappointment and need for something more... for more interaction. Development. Dialouge. Something

The relationship between Mariko and Kenshin (her twin brother) - we are told how much they love each other yet we don't really see it.
Yes, I think this is the biggest problem of all.
We're told more than we're shown.
Trust me, I'm a great believer in the power of words. Without them, we're nothing. But just being told something repeatedly, with no action or visual whatsoever to support it... just feels fake and empty, if you know what I mean.
Actions speak louder than words, are they not? (said the writer).

That's how I felt during the story, with almost everything.
We're told about the great and unbreakable bond between Ranmaru and Okami - That's great! I love strong friendships. So then what do we have to support it? Nothing, really.

We're told about the great trust and love between Kenshin and Mariko - what do we have to support it? Nothing really.

It seems like I'm asking for proof here but it's not proof it's... action. engagement. Something this book was clearly lacking. 

So yes, I enjoyed it enough to keep on reading.
But no, I didn't get this book. It confused me greatly. And I kept on wanting more out of it.  

"What did you do now, woman?" He seethed, his face wan, the color in constract to his eyes.  
"Nothing you need concern yourself with, boy," Mariko retorted. 

But wait just a second.
Despite my reservations, I did rate this book 3 stars. Which means, despite having my problems with it, I did enjoy it. I didn't DNF it.
Especially by the end of it, I seemed to have gathered more affection towards the cast of characters and the place the story was going. 

"If I'm marching to my death, then I will march to it as a girl. Without fear." 

I also loved how, despite everything, Mariko never gave up.
She was weak but she kept on fighting.
She was scared but she kept on going.
So yes, maybe I still don't get Mariko at all. Maybe I still don't understand what makes her a character I can care for but... she deserves applause just for her strong sense of self-worth and feminism. 

Did I enjoy this book? Quite.
Will I read the next one? Yes.
Do I hope for it to get better? Very much. Please let me see and feel more next time.  

Hatred served no purpose, except to plague its bearer. 


  1. I've heard that this book is a Mulan retelling, but I've been hesitant on it, since Mulan has been one of my absolute heroes growing up, and I didn't want it to be tarnished. I think I might have to skip this one then, especially if it doesn't really make the reader feel anything. Thanks for the review, Zoey! :)

    1. Mulan <3__<3
      Best hero ever.
      From my childhood to my adulthood I admire her and love her always :D
      omg, I don't even have enough strength to tell you "you should read it", which means I can't even recommend it '^^ . Not that it was bad - it was enjoyable - but it didn't really make me feel much of anything so... well '^^ .
      Thanks for commenting so quickly, Erika! I literally just finished writing the review after literally just finishing reading the book ;)

  2. Mariko sounds like a wonderful main character. I've been waiting to read this one for a bit now, and I was super excited about the Mulan similarity :(
    Great review Zoey, I hope your next read is better.
    New GFC follower :)
    Aneta @ Angelic Book Reviews 

    1. Don't worry, despite this not having much to do with Mulan, the concept, characters and plot are quite interesting indeed (:
      I hope you'll love it more than I have ;)
      Thank you, Aneta! For you compliment, comment and follow :*)
      Next read: The Dark Prophecy *ahhh, this is going to be good!*

  3. I haven't even read this book yet and I keep having to tell people it's not a Mulan retelling. I'm sorry you didn't love it more. I will probably buy this if I see it at the bookstore this summer (I'm on a book buying ban until then xD) but I've seen many mixed reviews so I'm actually not sure if I will love it either. But we'll see. :D

    1. Yep, it seems there is a lot of confusion about this book being a Mulan retelling. I can maybe say it was loosely - so very very loosely - inspired by Mulan but even that's a stretch. So I wonder who started it that this was a Mulan retelling. Most of the people who read the book - whether they love it or not - realize this afterwards.
      But anyway, I feel so sorry to see a fellow reader in a book buying ban!
      How can you resist that *urge* to buy books? It's no easy feat.
      I hope you'll love it more than I did! :D
      But if you don't, we can always chat about it to more depth ;)

  4. Totally agree with your review! I rated it 4/5, but I definitely thought I was being generous! Shazi as a character was so much better that it's hard not to be disappointed.

    1. Hey, Yomna!
      Yes, I agree.
      I think my reason for being so harsh with this book is *because* I expected so much. And *because* I loved The Wrath & The Dawn a lot.
      Oh well. I'm hoping for greater things in book 2 (will you read it?) (:
      Thank you!

  5. Oh nooo that's so disappointing!! I'm super excited for this one, but like I'm also worried it won't live up to The Wrath and the Dawn. 😱 I shall need to lower my expectations! Also I totally hate when books just tell you stuff (like someone will do anything for someone else) but don't bother to actually build the relationship. BREAKS MY SMOL HEART.

    Ugh, sorry this one let you down!!

    1. I knowwwwwww, I was SO disappointed. It was hard to write a review about how disappointed I was. *sigh*.
      Gahh, I hope you'll love it more than I did (:
      If you do, I'm glad for you!
      If you don't, you know who you can talk about it to ;)

      It's sad for me to say that if it was anyone else's book I probably wouldn't have read it till the end and/or wanted to read the next book.
      But since it's Renee's book I just feel obligated to.
      Okay, so maybe it's a bad reason but... '^^

  6. Hey girl!! It's been oh so long!! We need to catch up a lot <33 Sorry it took me a while to catch up with your blog :/ And, regarding the review, I'm sad :( I'm having HIGH expectations for this book and I'm sorry it didn't work out as well...I'm a very much show not tell person and now I'm worried about how I'll like the book :/ Sorry you felt let down too!

    Great, honest review though girl :)

    1. UMA!
      Heyyy :D
      I know, I know. It seems to be happening a lot with us, doesn't it? '^^
      And honestly don't worry about it, it's me who still hasn't caught up with your blog as well (*sigh*).
      But yay, I'm really glad you wrote me here. It's always good hearing from you :D

      Ahhh, I feel like I'm letting people down just by the existence of me review '^^ . Sorry.
      Stay cautious yet hopeful, though. I may not have liked it as much as I wanted to but a lot of people did. Goodreads it basically filled with 4-5 stars gushing reviews. With my 3 stars disappointed review *I* seem to be the minority here '^^ . That being said, I'm glad I could deliver my feelings honestly. It's even more important given the fact I received an e-ARC of Flame in the Mist. It meant so much to be (:

      *Thank you*, Uma! You're the best :D <33

  7. Ah no I'm so sorry you were disappointed! I'm dying to read this book, and I hope I'll like it :) I do love the cover, too - isn't it just gorgeous?!
    Great review Zoey :)

    1. Hi Amy!
      *so sorry for the embarrassingly long time it took me to response, I've been on an unexpected hiatus*
      The cover is beautiful indeed! <3
      Oh, I hope you'll love it! I may have been disappointed but there's no mistaking I enjoyed it a lot ^__^
      Thanks, Amy!

  8. :( Disappointment is never fun.

    I totally agree that Wrath flowed better. This one was a little more difficult and I feel like it could have been the Japanese influence? Not sure. I just felt a little jarred when I read a Japanese word and I would have had to have looked in the glossary to get the definition... It doesn't help the flow.

    Also all the characters introduced so quickly and unusual names - it made it more difficult. Sometimes I was like, wait, is that who she's betrothed to?

    Mariko's head was very different to Shazi's, so I guess there's that.

    I definitely enjoyed this one more than you did but I hope we both get more out of the sequel.

    1. Hiya, di! (:
      *first things first, so sorry for the embarrassingly long time it took me to response, I've been on an unexpected hiatus*
      Ahh, so you felt the same as I in those matters. We ended up giving this book different ratings but thanks for relating to the stuff that jarred me, so to speak, in it '^^
      I'm glad you managed to enjoy it more than I though (:
      Funny thing is, I LOVE Japan and yet I knew none of these words mentioned in the book :'D and I actually do know some of the language. Maybe because it was set in ancient Japan?
      I totally agree with what you said. And yes, let's hope to enjoy the sequel much more! (:

  9. The hype for this book was huge and I for one is a huge fan of The Wrath & Dawn so I'm excited to read this one coz as you've said Mulan references. I really appreciate your thorough review coz now I can manage my expectations when I read this one.
    Sorry this book has let you down. ☹️

    -Karla from Reads and Thoughts

    1. Hi there ^^
      *First things first, so sorry for the embarrassingly long time it took me to response, I've been on an unexpected hiatus*
      I really hope you'll enjoy it more than I have (:
      It's a good book, just... lost a lot of potential, I would say.
      Anyways, thanks for your comment! ^__^