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review 2017-05-08 18:31
Review: Flame in the Mist
Flame in the Mist - Renee Ahdieh

I wound up with two review copies of this one. I first put in a Netgalley request which I figured was a long shot, and when I didn’t hear anything back in months, I used some of my Penguin First to Read points to secure a copy when it popped up on their read to review site. And then when I’m half way through the book my Netgalley request was approved. Oh well.

 

I don’t really know what to make of the novel in the end. I gave it a generous 3 stars, but it’s more like two and a half. While I can appreciate the journey of inner strength from the main character, Mariko, I didn’t actually like her all that much. I found the first 100 pages or so incredibly boring. The novel is beautifully written, the scenery is fantastic and the descriptions are vivid and lyrical. The fantasy setting in a Japanese world is fascinating. All marks of a fantasy I should love.

 

But personally, I just could not get into the plot. I found Mariko almost aloof, I didn’t get much of a sense of personality from her at all. I couldn’t connect with her character in a way that would make me as a reader care about what happened to her.

 

That being said, as the novel progressed, the plot did get better and Mariko did show some pretty impressive growth and strength. She’s definitely intelligent and determined, you have to give her that. On the way to her politically arranged marriage her carriage party is attacked by a notorious mercenary group the Black Clan. Mariko survives the attack and doesn’t cower in fear. She’s furious and decides she wants to know the reasons behind. Disguising herself as a boy, she follows the Black Clan and worms her way in.

 

Back in her home province, Mariko’s twin brother Kenshin, is convinced she survived the assassination attempt. Other plots include devious goings on between the Emperor and his Mistress who seems to have some hint at dark dangerous magic and her own political agenda. The Empress who seems quite passive but there’s more to her than meets the eye. The Emperor’s legitimate son (Mariko’s intended) and the illegitimate son with their own squabbles. And while all this is going on Mariko in the guise of a boy is uncovering the inner secrets of the Black Clan.

 

Of course there are lots of plot twists and everyone has secrets of their own. Mariko uncovers some shocking truths about the lands she came from and how her lord father runs them, and must decide where her true loyalties lie. There’s a romance agenda as well for Mariko when the truth about her identity is revealed. There are secrets within the Black Clan itself.

 

The plot did improve as the novel goes on and starts getting more into the twisty secrets, there’s a barest hint of some sort of magic involved, but very little of it is explained. Though it’s enough to make the reader want to know more (or it certainly worked that way for me). While Mariko was a difficult character to warm to, her journey throughout the novel is impressive, even with a kind of predictable romance, I want to know what happens next.

 

Thank you to Netgalley and Hodder & Stoughton for approving my request to view the title.

 

Thank you to Penguin First to Read.

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review 2014-07-29 20:20
Stormdancer - Jay Kristoff

My brain is suffering from an overload of holy crap this book was awesome right now.
I very nearly gave up on this book quite early on. The first hundred pages or so were extremely boring. Almost nothing was happening. It was pretty much introducing characters and setting the scene. Granted though, the Steam Punk and dysptopian themes wound with Japanese fantasy were interesting...but not attention grabbing. The world described was pretty grim and bleak. The Shogun was an asshole right from the start. The female lead was likeable enough. The writing was detailed, the picture clear, the style of the prose a little too flowery and purple prosey.
 
And the plot was so so slow. And I came very close to DNFing several times. But once I got past the first 100 pages, the plot picked up rapidly and became brilliant. The characters leapt off the page. The story telling grabbed my attention and pretty much did not let go. The story became utterly fascinating. I became completely engrossed and loved Yukiko and her thunder tiger. There were quite a few scenes in the beginning with the griffin that were quite painful and hard to read. As the plot advanced the relationship between Yukiko and the thunder tiger was just amazing. There were more than a few points where the story was so good the writing and the connection between the two brought a tear to my eye. And it wasn't even for sad scenes.
 
The intricacy of the story telling and the plot developed even more, some characters turned out to be surprising. The sheer imagination in the novel is unbelievable. I don't care in the slightest how accurate the Japanese terminology is, its a fantasy, I look for good characters, believable world building and good story telling, all of which this novel had in abundance. (Once I got past the first 100 pages).
 
Completely unpredictable as well. More than a few times in the plot, you think you know where its going, then it twists and turns and completely surprises you. Fantastic book. Bring on the next!
 
This book covers several squares for my Summer Bingo reading challenge. I'm crossing off the square - Features an Animal Companion.

 

 

 

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text 2014-07-22 21:15
Reading progress update: I've read 263 out of 438 pages.
Stormdancer - Jay Kristoff

Holy crap!!!! That was just....awesome. So so good it brought a tear to my eye and it wasn't even a sad scene!!!!

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