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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 2017-05-03 02:11
Flame in the Mist by Renée Ahdieh
Flame in the Mist - Renee Ahdieh

This review can also be found at Carole's Random Life in Books.

I really enjoyed this book. I went into it not really knowing what to expect. I hadn't read anything by Renée Ahdieh before this book but had heard great things about her work. I saw so many comparisons of this book to Mulan that I was a little fearful that this would just be a rehashing of a very familiar story. I had no reason to worry since this was really a very original story. This was one of those books that I found myself thinking about during the times that I couldn't read.

Mariko is on her way to be married when her entourage is attacked. She is able to escape to safety but she has no idea how long she will be able to remain safe. She decides to dress as a boy and find the group that tried to kill her. She does find them and is eventually taken back to their camp. Things start out hard at the camp and she is treated as a prisoner. Eventually, she earns some trust and gets to know some of the members of the group.

The way this story was written really just pulled me in. Everything flowed so perfectly and the pacing was well done. I liked this author's voice a lot. It seemed that the words all came together almost magically to create a story that was beautiful and entertaining. There are a lot of really exciting scenes that are offset by others that are more thoughtful.

The characters were amazing. Mariko is smart and determined. She learns a lot of really hard truths over the course of this story and is able to accept them and decide how to proceed with her life. Okami was a bit of a mystery which I really liked. He was obviously drawn to Mariko almost immediately and I liked the tension between them. They had some really great banter that was a lot of fun.

I would highly recommend this book to others. This is a really great start to a new and exciting series. I seriously did not want it to end and can't wait to find out what happens next!

I received an advance reader edition of this book from G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers via First to Read.

Initial Thoughts
I liked this one a lot. I really wasn't ready to end. What happens next? I need to know!

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review 2017-05-01 22:37
Flame in the Mist
Flame in the Mist - Renee Ahdieh

Okay, before I get into my thoughts on the book I have to start with a rant about reviews I've been seeing: This is not a Mulan re-telling. Stop comparing this to Mulan. Please. STOP. Mulan is based off a true story about a warrior woman who dons men's clothing and joins the war effort in China. This is about a high born Japanese girl who impersonates a boy in order to travel through some magical woods and hunt down ninjas. Just because a story involves a woman dressing as a man/boy, and is set in Asia, does not mean these are the same story, or even similar. (Hint: these stories are not similar at all.) There are tons of stories about women dressing up as men to infiltrate their society for one reason or another, and I don't see them being compared to Mulan. Which means this is happening because both of these stories are set in Asia. Chinese culture and Japanese culture are very different. They are not the same place. So yeah. Please stop. /end rant

 

Alright, now that I've gotten that off my chest lets dig into my review, shall we?
There is a lot to love about this book. Mariko starts out being soft and somewhat spoiled, and by the end of the book she has embraced her inner badass and come into her own. Her transformation takes place over the course of the book (instead of in a slap-dash chapter, which is so often the case in stories like these), and as a result it is convincing and rewarding. Even when I thought she was acting foolishly I believed in her reasoning, and I wanted to see her succeed. Stated more plainly, I liked her and I thought Ahdieh did a good job with her character development. The secondary characters were also decently drawn. The love interest was straight up teen lit stock bad boy, but most people will find that appealing. I did really appreciate that there wasn't a love triangle.

 

This book is filled with terms and concepts rooted in feudal Japanese culture, which I loved. Since I was fortunate enough to read an advanced copy of this book it did not have a glossary in the back (finished copies will). Unless you are familiar with this time and region you will likely want to make use of that glossary. I was very thankful that I've studied Japan or I might have been a bit lost. The book talks a lot about Bushido, and many of Mariko's actions (as well as her brother's) are rooted in this philosophy. It adds a richness and additional layers to the story. It was refreshing to see an author actually do their best to evoke a sense of feudal Japan, instead of just giving people katanas and calling it good.

 

The world-building was a mixed bag. As I was discussing above, Ahdieh did a good job of transporting me to Japan. However, I was a little thrown off by the mystical elements. There is magic in this world, but it doesn't get used that much until late in the story. The magic wasn't very well developed, and I found myself uncertain as to what the rules were and whether it was common or not. I'm hoping that will be fleshed out more in the future.

So generally speaking this book has a lot going for it. Adventure, good pacing, well developed characters, and decent world building. So then why am I not rating this book higher? Personal taste really. I think this book is going to be a perfect 10/10 for a lot of people, and I'm looking forward to pressing it into the hands of teen readers. Where it fell down a bit for me was, well, it was very teen. Which is unfair, I know. The structure of the romance with the broody and mysterious boy was something I've read so many times I now find it a bit tiresome. The language was fairly simplistic. The plot was predictable. None of that was particularly damning, but it didn't elevate it to Amazing for me. Again, it's a personal taste thing.

 

All that said, if you're looking for a fast, fun, teen read, with plenty of wonderful Japanese flavor, a strong and clever heroine, and a dash of magic and romance, this book will leave you happy and waiting for more.

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review 2017-04-27 16:21
The Wrath & the Dawn (The Wrath & the Dawn, #1) by Renee Ahdieh
The Wrath and the Dawn - Renee Ahdieh

By: Renee Ahdieh

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

Series: (The Wrath and the Dawn #1)

Publication Date: May 12th 2015

Format:  Hardcover

Pages: 388

 
 
 
 
 
One Life to One Dawn.

 

In a land ruled by a murderous boy-king, each dawn brings heartache to a new family. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, is a monster. Each night he takes a new bride only to have a silk cord wrapped around her throat come morning. When sixteen-year-old Shahrzad’s dearest friend falls victim to Khalid, Shahrzad vows vengeance and volunteers to be his next bride. Shahrzad is determined not only to stay alive, but to end the caliph’s reign of terror once and for all.

 

Night after night, Shahrzad beguiles Khalid, weaving stories that enchant, ensuring her survival, though she knows each dawn could be her last. But something she never expected begins to happen: Khalid is nothing like what she’d imagined him to be.

 

This monster is a boy with a tormented heart. Incredibly, Shahrzad finds herself falling in love. How is this possible? It’s an unforgivable betrayal. Still, Shahrzad has come to understand all is not as it seems in this palace of marble and stone. She resolves to uncover whatever secrets lurk and, despite her love, be ready to take Khalid’s life as retribution for the many lives he’s stolen. Can their love survive this world of stories and secrets?

 

Inspired by A Thousand and One Nights, The Wrath and the Dawn is a sumptuous and enthralling read from beginning to end.

 

Get the book : Amazon

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My Review:

 
growing up Arabe , I remember being a little girl and my mother telling me stories of “One Thousand and One Nights” ,
and i used to listen to those stories every night , each time more charmed and bewildered by the magical events , years went on and the stories stayed with me as i’m sure they’ll stay when i’m no longer here .

 

description

The feeling of hearing those stories … it came back again while reading this book .

As shahrazad (shazi) told the stories to the Caliph at night , i started remembering the ones i heard my mother tell .

description

Shahrazad is my favorite character, her strength and intelligence are interesting for a girl her age , and her silver tongue with her snarky remarks made the book so fun to read.

Even though each one in this book was special , the Caliph was a surprise , because i always pictured him as evil and ruthless , the same as Shazi used to see him , but we got to see his real story now.

i’m not a big fan of Tariq in this story , but i want to see what he will do next , especially with the way the book ended .

The writing was absolutely beautiful , made the book that much worth it , here are some of my favorite quotes :

“Some things exist in our lives for but a brief moment. And we must let them go on to light another sky.”

“The more a person pushes others away, the clearer it becomes he is in need of love the most.”

description

This was such a great read and i would recommend it to YA and Fantasy fans , i didn’t want it to end! i want more!

description

 
 
4-stars

 

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review 2017-04-11 20:53
Flame in the Mist.
Flame in the Mist - Renee Ahdieh

Wow. So anyway I haven't swapped between reads as I normally do since I picked this up again this morning so I've finished it today and I thought it was beautiful. Absolutely mesmerising.

Didn't know anything about it beforehand, about it being a Mulan retelling or anything about the author who I've not read before (but will certainly keep doing now) I've found that out since but this story and these characters just transported me away. Completely away. I lived every minute of it. And that to me is the sign of a blinking good book.

I shall of course review properly for publication. For now though. Yes. Lovely. Do it again please. Didn't want this one to end..and WHAT an end.

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