Clover Book Club: Flame in the Mist
Sometimes you just need a little fantasy in your life; right now you need a big fantasy. Flame in the Mist is a truly thrilling read that’ll make you forget everything that’s happening in the world—except what’s happening in Feudal Japan, that is.
Author Renée Ahdieh writes with a lot of magic, making the historical fantasy feel so real. There are arranged marriages, samurai sword fights, even some star-crossed lovers. But don’t just take our word for it. We gave copies to readers to host their own IRL Clover Book Club, and they told us why Flame in the Mist is such a must-read.
I knew I was going to love this book before I even started, because it had all the elements I adore in novels: a plot set in a historic time period, plus fantasy and serious female empowerment. Many of the reviews I read mentioned it was a semi-Mulan retelling. I found this to be not so true. It seems like every book that has a female acting as a male to fight in an army will forever be dubbed as a "Mulan retelling," but Mariko in Flame in the Mist is so much more. The 17-year-old went above and beyond in her story of female empowerment compared with the title character in Disney's movie. My friends and I all loved the way Mariko was tugged in multiple directions by her emotions—especially her romantic ones, which played against her fierce thirst for vengeance and displays of strength.
Being a strong woman doesn't mean that emotions never get the best of you. You are only human. This made the main character very realistic and relatable to any young, strong, and independent woman. The lush language of this novel made my friends and me feel like we were inside a fairy-tale. Well, until the plot snapped us back to reality and made us forget about all the stereotypes and cliches of our childhood Disney princess movies. Renée Ahdieh knows how to seduce with words, and the experience of reading about Mariko's relationships was intense, to say the least. As a lover of beautiful descriptions and phrases, I can't wait to read more of her work.
Flame in the Mist is an extremely well-written novel that keeps the reader in just enough suspense that it's impossible to put down. I think the thing that my friends and I most enjoyed was the (female!) protagonist’s vulnerability. This book teaches people that it is OK to be emotional. In fact, being emotional can make you strong. Too often emotional girls are looked down upon, and I love the way this book shows that that's not true. The characters, Mariko in particular, all struggle with the complexities of growing up in a broken world. They fight to establish and maintain relationships in the midst of drama-filled lives; it’s something everyone can relate to at one point or another.
This book also portrays the true meanings of courage and bravery, ones you don’t often see in YA: it's not about being unafraid, but about doing something despite that fear. Flame in the Mist manages to cover a multitude of important topics (sexism, courage, vulnerability, love, hate), all while unraveling a thrilling tale of adventure and intrigue in the face of corruption.
My friends loved it as much as I did. Heather called it “perfectly enthralling from page one.” She added that she especially liked how “Mariko’s courage doesn’t come from having no fear, but from facing it. By exploring who she is and who she wants to be, she becomes her own heroine.” Karmen described it perfectly as “an intricately woven tale with enough knowledge to keep you hooked, and enough mystery to keep you guessing." I couldn’t have said it better myself.
This post was brought to you by our pals at Penguin Teen. Now that you’re fully convinced that you need to add Flame in the Mist to your shelf, order it online here.