Friday, February 7, 2020

Flame in the Mist

Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh is a young adult historical fantasy set in feudal Japan when samurais protected the royal class and young girls were raised for one purpose--to make good marriages that would bring honor to their families. Mariko is the daughter of a samurai and she never seemed comfortable preparing for her role--she asked too many questions, her mind was always busy, and she was a gifted alchemist. But when the time comes and one of the Emperor's sons offers for her hand, she gives in to destiny. But fate has a way of twisting things up...

On the way to her bridegroom's palace, her convoy is attacked by what seems to be a horde of bandits who go by the name the Black Clan and who have been hired to kill Mariko. Miraculously, she survives and vows to find out who is beyond the plot to kill her and dishonor her family. She cuts her hair and disguises herself as a young peasant boy. Soon, she finds herself in the position to infiltrate the Black Clan and discover their secrets.

Meanwhile, her twin brother Kenshin is hunting for her. Despite the wreckage and burned bodies left behind by the attackers, Kenshin is sure his sister survived and he's determined to find her. He's not alone, Raiden--her intended--is also looking. But is his concern for her safety or do other motives drive him?

When I was looking for an award-winning book to read for this month's entry in the Monthly Book Award Challenge [2018 Southern Book Prize--Children's/Juvenile category], this sounded like a really interesting option. Young samurai daughter setting out on a quest to avenge herself on the bad guys who attacked her caravan and tried to kill her. You bet. Strong female character. Lead me to her. But honestly--she spends a great deal of time talking to herself (inside her head) like she's trying to convince herself that she's as tough as the book blurbs said she was. Not a whole lot happens for about two-thirds of the book. And the bulk of the action happens in the last 30 pages--all crammed together.

The writing is okay, although a great deal of the time I felt like the prose was trying too hard--too hard to be lyrical and descriptive, too hard to be all fantasy-like in a historical Asian setting. Some of it may have been an effort to duplicate the feel of translated Japanese works. I've read several books translated from the Japanese and it has an entirely different pace. But it never came off. Overall--a decent story, but I didn't quite feel that it was good enough for prizes. ★★

Pick Your Poison: Birds of a Feather (wings or feather on cover)

1 comment:

TP said...

I thought the same thing about it - it almost felt like a middle grade novel.