A Mulan inspired story set in feudal Japan?
To be frank, I really wanted to fall madly in love with this book. I really did. It makes me so sad to write this review because of the huge hype about how great it is.
This next portion of my review may sound stupid (you can skip it if you want) but it’s one of my biggest pet peeves in literature containing Asian characters.
For those of us who have read Cassandra Clare’s prequel series, Jem speaks Mandarin but it’s written in pinyin. In that instance, it’s completely fine because he’s speaking in Mandarin. In Flame in the Mist it makes sense to use -sama, -san, and -chan. It’s part of the language. I know there were many other Japanese words throughout the book and most of those words were either articles of clothing (obi) or weaponry (kunai). I was not okay with the word sumimasen.
It seems trivial to a lot of you and maybe a few of you don’t even care but in my personal experience, I find it distracting. I cannot read fics with full on conversations between characters in romanizaton. It’s stupid. Yes. I know. I’m nitpicking about this one word but I’ve stopped reading a lot of fics because of just one word. I don’t care how good everyone thinks it is. So when I read sumimasen, I was screaming in my head, “Just say sorry dang it!”.
From sumimasen, that’s where it started going downhill.
The story was good but I guess I wanted something more. When the premise of the book is inspired by Mulan and set in feudal Japan, my expectations were really high.
Back to what I was saying…
This story flow is similar to The Wrath and the Dawn. The main girl is witty and ahead of her time. The main guy is a troubled monster with a heart of gold. They meet. She hates him with her entire being until something particular about his person piques her interest and vice versa.
As an Asian-American who grew up in a traditional household, I wanted to read more of her struggles to break from the traditional role. I guess I wanted it more focused on Mariko learning skills that girls weren’t allowed to know. I wanted more inventions of badassery. I needed her to be smarter and not just witty. She’s very two dimensional to me.
I really didn’t care for Okami. He did push Mariko’s limits and expanded her horizons….in a way. All in all, his characterization is boring. He’s a Robin Hood character and that’s all he is.
The other characters weren’t enticing either. I would have liked to have read more about the Black Clan. Maybe we’ll get more insight in the next book. I would have liked Mariko’s brother, Kenshin, to be different too.
Also, I’ve read and seen my fair share of royal family drama and whatever that was, for me, was not good enough. Name calling? Giggling? Oh my glob. The ladies of the court were middle schoolers. They should have been more conniving, vengeful bitches clad in finery.
Maybe I’m getting tired of this formula. Maybe I craved less of a romance and more of a discovery of self-love and independence.
That aside, the writing was great. Renee Ahdieh has a way with describing food. It made me sad that I don’t have access to amazing authentic Japanese food because I was pretty hungry after that one scene. I love the descriptions of the geiko house and the beautiful clothes that were worn. I assume a lot of research was done for this story to paint feudal Japan and I am so appreciative of it.
I am bringing this up again. It’s still a good story to read. My high expectations and certain standards should not deter you from reading Ahdieh’s newest series. My opinion is just one of many.