Perhaps the forest simply knew this was where someone like Mariko – a lost girl in search of a place to call home – could plant roots and flourish
Mariko is sent to the imperial palace to meet her betrothed, a man she did not choose. But the journey is cut short when Mariko’s convoy is viciously attacked by the Black Clan, a dangerous group of bandits who’ve been hired to kill Mariko before she reaches the palace. The lone survivor, Mariko narrowly escapes to the woods, where she plots her revenge.
* * *
3 / 5
Flame In The Mist is the latest book by the author of The Wrath and The Dawn, which I really enjoyed and do recommend. This book is very loosely a Mulan retelling in which Mariko, daughter of a noble house, is attacked by bandits on her way to marry the second in line to the emperor’s throne. Lost in a creepy forest, Mariko cannot return home in shame and so endeavours to infiltrate the Black Clan, who she believes is responsible for her attempted murder.
She returned his embrace. Returned each of his kisses. Every touch. Until nothing at all existed between them.
But shared breaths.
And unspoken promises.
And unshakeable truth.
Really? Was it really necessary to write the whole book like this? Once or twice for dramatic effect, sure, but the whole thing is written this way.
Hattori Mariko was not just any girl. She was more.
When Mariko infiltrates the Black Clan the book gets a little slow and weird. I found it a little hard at first to tell the members of the clan apart: they’re all young men with swords who look a mix of angry/sad/lazy/tragic/pretty and they all seem to have multiple nicknames and titles thrown around. They’re also all weirdly philosophical. It’s really bizarre. I’m doing my undergrad in joint honour philosophy so I love a decent philosophical discussion, don’t get me wrong, it was just really odd, whilst Mariko genuinely thinks these men might kill her and has just seen a man die horribly in front of her, for her to be having discussions like:
“We are what we do.” Though Okami’s words sounded fierce, weariness tinged their edges.
“We are so much more than what we do!” Mariko drew closer, as if nearness could invoke a sense of truth. “We are our thoughts, our memories, our beliefs!”
If I am marching to my death then I will march to it as a girl. Without fear.
I recommend this book for those that like Mulan (though this is a very rough retelling), 47 Ronin, Japanese-inspired settings, and badass female characters. It’s a good, solid book, but unfortunately not a jaw-dropping one.