I am still reeling from this book! I basically read the entire thing in two days. The first few days after I started it I had a hard time getting in to the story but after I got past the first 100 pages then BAM! I'm in. There were so many laugh out loud moments in this book, I love love LOVED the interactions between our MC, Mariko, and the character Okami. UGH! Okami! Steal my heart with your wit. More on that later though, let’s start with plot.
Renee Ahdieh was definitely channeling Mulan when she wrote this book. Basically, we have a wealthy Japanese girl who was betrothed to the emperor’s second son but on her way to the Imperial City her convoy gets attacked by men out to kill her. Mariko manages to escape after the men assume her for dead and she stumbles in to the forest of Jukai that is seemly cursed and crawling with weird spirits and such. Mariko then decides it’s a good idea to dress like a boy and track down the Black Clan band of rebels that are supposedly responsible for her attempted murder. Well, she finds them, and chaos ensues. I don’t want to give away too many spoilers because I highly recommend this book. I did feel like it took a little long for our Heroine to cross paths with the Black Clan but once she does the book becomes a million times more interesting. In fact, I could not put it down. The leader of the clan and his right hand man are wonderfully rich characters. Their bromance is endearing and their interactions with Miriko, especially Okami, had me laughing out loud. This book does end in a bit of a cliffhanger but I thought it was so well done that I still felt satisfied as a reader. I didn’t feel like I was deprived of a climactic ending like I did Roar. But at the same time, the author set up the second book so I’m sure to run out and buy the next installment as soon as it’s out. Well played Renee Ahdieh, well played.
The world building was fantastic with this book. I felt like there was enough explanation of everything I needed to know yet the story wasn’t bogged down by too much information that wasn’t essential to moving the plot along. We got a taste of the Imperial City and the underhanded nature of the court which I love. I LOVE stories with conniving royalty. This also helped me understand the semantics of it all and where our heroine and sidekicks fell on the spectrum of our books society. All while getting the rich Chinese culture experience with samurai’s, emperors, and geisha’s, oh my!
And oh the romance. I thought the love subplot in this was incredibly well done. Our MC is not a squeaky clean protagonist I’ll tell you that and neither is her love interest, and that’s okay. I know that the whole trope of the misunderstood bad boy is getting a little over done with YA but the fact that Miriko is a little bad herself made it way more interesting. Their banter is hilarious and when they finally crash together it makes total sense. Sometimes I feel like author’s play out the banter until you just start getting annoyed with the bickering and don’t even want them to end up together. This is not the case with this book. It makes total sense that these characters are attracted to one another and what’s hilarious is that you see our main guy struggling with his attraction from the beginning because he thinks she’s a boy. So he can’t understand why he feels so drawn to her until it’s finally revealed she’s actually female. I love it. I love them. You should go buy this book.
*******Slight Spoiler Ahead **********
One last note, this is a girl power book that, of course, I love because I’m a girl. I love the respect that the character earns when she comes in to her own and decides that it’s not her gender that’s holding her back, it’s herself. When Okami discovers she’s a girl he makes it clear that he will not tell her what to do/give her orders/judge her because of the fact that she’s a girl. He bases his judgments on actions alone. This was refreshing, while in the Mulan movie her team immediately abandons her the moment they find out she’s a woman. This is not the case with the Black Clan and I found that really awesome.
Until next time here’s a couple quotes from the book!
“You are first and foremost a person. A reckless, foolish person, but a person nonetheless. If I ever say you are not permitted to do something, rest assured that the last reason I would ever say so would be because you are a girl.”
― Renee Ahdieh, Flame in the Mist
“If I am marching to my death, then I will march to it as a girl. Without fear.”
― Renee Ahdieh, Flame in the Mist