Review: Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh

After hearing so much hype about Renee Ahdieh’s The Wrath & The Dawn duology on booktube (plus, I’m obsessed with the new UK covers!) I decided it was about time that I read something by her! Flame in the Mist is her latest release which Goodreads calls ‘Mulan meets Throne of Glass.’ I’ve also heard a few people say that it’s a mash-up retelling of Mulan and 47 Ronin, and on both occasions, ‘Mulan’ is the only thing I’m interested in, so I was looking forward to some cross-dressing shenanigans. However, as you’ll already noticed by my star-rating, I found myself a little disappointed. I think this was mostly because I’d read another ‘Mulan’ mash-up retelling recently – though this time it’s ‘Mulan meets Pitch Perfect’ – in Riley Redgate’s Noteworthywhich was A++

The fact that this is the first in a series really intrigues me, because I think Mariko’s story is over. It would partly explain the epilogue which I think was about a completely different character and I was really confused, but now I’m thinking this is going to be a companion series?

Anyway, I was disappointed by ‘Flame in the Mist.’ The first 20% was really gripping – it took me a minute to get settled in the world and learn all the characters names – and I was really looking forward to when this would get like Mulan. I’ll tell you know that aside from cross-dressing and falling in love with the Shang character, this book isn’t similar at all. I think because I’d just read ‘Noteworthy’, I was expecting more commentary on being a girl vs being a boy. Redgate handled it so well and Ahdieh barely even touched on it. There was one moment when Mariko said something along the lines of ‘I don’t regret being born a woman’ but it wasn’t the powerful thread I was hoping for.

Also this story has multiple focalisers – eg. Mariko’s brother, and love interest – and I really didn’t care for either of them. The brother’s sections were filled with his dedication to finding his sister and then Mariko’s sections are more like ‘you know, I really don’t miss home all that much.’ Maybe I wasn’t paying close enough attention either, but I couldn’t tell you what the driving action of this story was, apart from Mariko getting captured and faking to be a boy to survive. What were the stakes again? I honestly can’t remember.

Also, let me take a second to talk about the romance plot. It was necessary. It comes out of nowhere at around 65% per cent. No, seriously, Mariko is like ‘where did these feelings come from??’ and by 75% they’re declaring their undying love for one another. Then the guy suddenly gets referred to as ‘The Wolf’ and I didn’t pick up on this at any time before, so it just seemed to be a device to make him seem more masculine and “attractive”.

Overall, I was really hoping for more from this author who I’ve heard so many good things about. But, the ending was far too rushed as well, suddenly all the characters are coming together and it was a cluster of ‘wait? what’s happening? SINCE WHEN???’ and the writing wasn’t really my cup of tea either. Lots of useless repetition. I do own ‘The Wrath & The Dawn’ so I’ll probably get to that eventually (though I’m probably going to hate the romance in that too, right?) but I’m considerably less excited about it now.

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