Flame in the Mist, oh what a disappointment you are.
To be fair, this book wasn’t really all bad. It had some good to it. But it wasn’t enough to make me forget about the thing I hated most about this book – Mariko.
Before I go to my pros and cons, I’d like to enumerate the reasons why I didn’t like Mariko because she deserves an entirely separate list.
Reasons Why I did not like Mariko
1. SHE IS ANNOYING
I don’t even know where to start. Oh. Right. Let me start with how much she loves reminding the readers how smart she is. Tell me once, is fine. But tell me multiple times, now that’s fucking annoying. She tries so hard to prove herself to the others by being a smart mouth instead of actually showing she can do something.
2. SHE’S CLAIMS SHE’S SMART, BUT DO WE REALLY SEE IT?
Nope. She was all talk, no action.
3. SUCH DOUBLE STANDARDS
Okay. She has been repeatedly telling herself that the members of the Black Clan were dishonorable, well in fact, she wasn’t really too honorable herself.
The sight faintly disgusted Mariko. Was this how every young woman appeared in the company of handsome young men? How ridiculous. No wonder young men craved spending time in places like Hanami. Mariko would have wagered everything she had that this maiko was the reason Okami traveled so often to Inako.
That my friends, in my book, is called slut-shaming. Funny enough though, the girl with Okami didn’t do anything provocative for her to think this way towards her. She judged this person even before knowing who she was.
5. LYING. AND MORE LYING
She’s told too many lies and never once felt bad about it.
6. SHE WAS THE LEAST INTERESTING CHARACTER IN THIS ENTIRE BOOK
No matter what she says or do, I just don’t find her interesting at all. All I know from her is that she came from a rich family, has a twin brother, knows stuff because of being home schooled which turned out to be useful for making weapons, hates the Black Clan because she thinks they tried to kill her. That’s basically who she is in a nutshell. Oh. And also she hates being a woman because of how society treats women. WTF.
Aside from Mariko, there were other things that I didn’t like about this book as well.
Things that did not work for me
1. THE PLOT IS GOOD, BUT ARRANGED IN A VERY CONFUSING WAY. The plot keeps on jumping around from one plot point to another. One minute we follow Mariko, then we have the brother, then it’s someone from another planet then it’s someone from the royal family. It just jumps around quite a lot and you’re not really sure where it was going. I guess it was intentionally done that way because of the big reveal towards the end.
2. AS I MENTIONED EARLIER, I HATED MARIKO. I really wish they would have gone with a character that has a real sense of what courage is. Courage is not about killing people. Courage is about being able to stand for what you believe in despite whatever outcome it may have. Mariko has been telling everyone that she’s brave and smart, but she never really showed the readers that.
3. IF THIS BOOK WAS SUPPOSED TO PROMOTE FEMINISM, THEN IT DEFINITELY DID NOT DO ITS JOB WELL. Nope. Definitely not. Mariko, who is supposed to advocate feminism, is not a good role model. Rather than doing something about the gender inequality during this time period, all she does is complain about it.
4. CAN WE TALK ABOUT THAT ROMANCE? Yes. This book had some romance in it, to my dismay. To make matters worse, it came from out of the blue. From hating someone so much one minute and deciding to fuck them the next minute. Yes, this book has that. I’m normally not bothered by it, but I just didn’t buy anything about the romance between Mariko and the dude, whose name I would not be mentioning to avoid spoilers, to be able to accept this.
While I, mostly, prefer my books with romance, I would have wanted for this book not to have one.
5. EEEEH? WHAT? FANTASY ELEMENTS. I love fantasy and I’d love anything that has fantasy in it – only if it works. It sort of works here, but my issue was how it was not explained how there was magic in this world.
6. DON’T TELL ME, SHOW ME. This story told us more about who the characters were rather than letting the readers know for themselves. I wouldn’t be able to believe Mariko’s claim about being a smart person if I don’t see that in the decisions she make, which unfortunately, is what happened here. Mariko was all tell, no action.
7. IT WAS SLOW PACED.
8. Japanese words were thrown here and there without any explanation of what they were. I get that there was a glossary towards the end, but I would have preferred it if they were addressed during the conversation.
9. THAT ENDING. Of course it’s a cliffhanger. A stupid cliffhanger. I didn’t even understand why Mariko did the thing she did towards the end because I doubt it would even make a difference.
This book wasn’t all that bad. Here are some of the things that I actually liked.
Things that worked for me
1. Renee Adieh’s writing is still as beautiful as ever. The way she uses prose is still beyond me. I want to know how she writes so fluidly and magically. Her words itself were already magic. This was the saving grace of this book for me. I love the writing so much I couldn’t help myself to not finish it.
2. I wanted more of the Black Clan and the politics. Their background, and the characters from that group, I would have preferred reading more of. Okami and Ranmaru has such a tight bond that you’ll get to see a tiny bit in the story as to why they have that relationship.
3. There were a lot of great quotations in this book! And when I say a lot, I mean a lot!
4. That cover! Let’s all I can say about it.
I really wanted to love this book. Renee Adieh’s writing is something I am drawn to. However, I just wish this book had a stronger character, someone who understand shit about society.
Everyone says this book is a Mulan retelling, but I beg to disagree. Mariko is nothing like Mulan. Mulan did what she had to do to save her father. Her motivations were not for herself. Mariko, on the other hand, did what she did to prove herself that she is smart and that she can do it. For her, it was self-achievement and preservation.
I really want to read more about the Black Clan and, I’m guessing, they would have more stuff to do on the next book. I’m not sure how this duology would end because that ending, despite how predictable it was (at least for me), was intriguing. Will I read the next one to find out more? Maybe. Not sure. If I don’t have anything else to read.