Spoiler-Free Review: Flame in the Mist

“There is such strength in being a woman.
But it is a strength you must choose for yourself.”

Author: Renée Ahdieh

When Mariko left home, it was to marry a prince. She soon finds herself dressed as a peasant boy. Life comes at you fast!

The lone survivor of a assassination attempt, Mariko sets out to hunt down the Black Clan and discover who wants her dead. The more she learns about the Black Clan, the more she wonders if they really are behind the attempt on her life, and maybe, they are actually the good guys.

I liked this book for the most part. Mariko is a decent protagonists. I really like that she’s flawed and makes mistakes, and hello character growth! I so rarely get to see you in YA novels. I only had three real problems with this book: honorifics, world building, and the fox creature.

Honorifics

Hands down the biggest problem I have is with the misuse of honorifics. Like “Miss,” “Mr.” and “Dr.” Japanese honorifics are used to tell you about someone’s place in society. Early on we see Mariko with some servants. She is calling them thing like “Suma” and “Chen” and they are calling her “San.” My suspension of disbelief was shattered and I never really got it back. “San” is used among equals, “Chen” is used for children, and “Suma” is basically means ‘My Lord/Lady.” So she is addressing her servants as “child” and “my Lord.” and her servants are addressing her as an equal.

You see why this broke me?

I’m not fluent in Japanese, but I know that’s wrong. I get that she’s supposed to have known these servants her whole life, but she’s clearly of a higher social status then them, and that mattered in feudal Japan! They really should be calling her “Suma” (my lady) “Hime” (princess) or as she’s engaged to a prince, maybe even “Hidenka” (your highness) There probably is an honorific specifically for high ranking servants, but I don’t know what it is. I’m no linguistics expert, I googled all that! Why couldn’t the writer?

World Building

I was kind of confused about some of the world building. Is her father a Samurai or a Daimyo? it seamed to go back and forth. Would the son of the Emperor (even if he’s not the heir) marry a Samurai’s daughter? I’m no expert or anything, but I know that the feudal Japanese royal courts had over a dozen layers of hierarchy! I’m sorry, but knowing where the characters fit in is kind of a problem.

How does the magic system work exactly? Who can and cannot use magic? I shouldn’t be wondering this after reading your book!

The Fox Thing

I’m confused by the fox creature. What is it? Is it a Kitsunetsuki? A Kami? Why did you not mention the creature’s tail at all? I know enough about Japanese folklore to know the tail is key to figuring out what this fox thing is! Is it evil? Is it good? Is it a trickster? What is it?

Those are admittedly nitpicks, but it was enough to throw me out of the story. I think many teens will like this book, but don’t give this to an big anime nerd. My friend couldn’t get past the prologue with those bad honorifics.

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