Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I liked Ahdieh's first duology and its unique take on the Arabian Nights, but this book wasn't nearly as enjoyable. Rather than the lush, romantic fantasy she gifted us with before, Ahdieh's story of a young Japanese noblewoman forced to hide out with the group that tried to kill her (calling it a Mulan retelling is highly inaccurate, especially given the Japanese setting as opposed to Chinese, but other reviewers have covered that in greater depth) is dark and full of terrors, but suffers from a muddled, repetitive plot, like Zack Snyder possessed Ahdieh as she wrote this book. Not helping is the fact that, even though chapters alternate between Mariko's and Kenshin's POVs (and I love Mariko, especially), the fact that both are rendered in third person makes it very hard for me to connect with them, or even differentiate between them sometimes. But the "dark and full of terrors" helps boost the story out of the trash heap for me, especially with that carnivorous jubokko tree, as well as the final scene, which is scarily reminiscent of a recent episode of Supergirl - no spoilers, though.
I'll read the sequel to this book - it's ending another duology, right? But I'm going into that one with some reservations, unless Ahdieh manages to tighten the pacing and make her characters more vibrant.
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