This book. It was perfect.
I’ve been in a bit of a book slump lately because I am having a really hard time ripping myself away from watching kdramas. However, the first three-quarters of a book is pretty much a kdrama, and I am so thankful. In case any of you readers also happen to be kdrama viewers and have watched Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo, I can confidently say that you will enjoy this. Alternatively, if you’ve read this but are looking for something with a similar vibe/feel/romance, check out Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo. You can’t go wrong either way.
Clearly we readers have high expectations after the author’s last series, but there were definitely times where I believed that I liked this one more than either of her last two books. I’d have to re-read them to know for sure, but let me just say that this is a dream of a book and I had the best time reading it. The pace was perfect, the writing was gorgeous, the backstory and plot were thrilling, and I enjoyed every moment. Instead of racing through the novel, I took my time reading it – this is rare, people. This book goes right into the story and introduces the characters right in the prologue, so there’s also no lag time getting into the plot.
Flame in the Mist begins when the main character Mariko is being given away in marriage to the emperor’s son in order to give her family prestige. She, understandably, is not too happy about this, but goes along with her father’s plans anyways. However, on the way to the palace, her norimono is attacked. Everyone is killed, and Mariko only narrowly escapes. Determined to find out who was behind the attack instead of running back to her home where she’ll just be sent to the palace once more, she cuts her hair Mulan-style and disguises herself as a boy before setting out.
There isn’t a single thing I disliked about this book. The romance was spot-on and pretty much exactly what I was hoping for. It’s always so fun watching the main guy and girl interact knowing that the person the guy thinks is a guy is actually a girl – it’s a romance trope sweet spot for me. Beyond that though, I love how Mariko grows into her own. She begins to figure out how she fits into life, and how to feel about the way she’s treated just because she’s a woman. She’s always hated it, but I feel like at a certain point in the novel, she actually embraces it and uses it to her advantage. Mariko is a feminist through and through, and thankfully, so is the love interest.
The world-building is done really well without paragraphs of unnecessary sensory images, and honestly, I just really love the way Renée Ahdieh writes. I specifically noticed that when her characters are shocked, the way she writes that shock is literally how you think in your head – there’s the short sentences and the slight repetition, and I absolutely love it. Also, it really helps that there’s already repetition in the characters’ thoughts, so I don’t have to re-read the same sentence five times, which is what I usually do to deal with my own shock.
This is a beautiful book, and the ending is ACOMAF-eque (similar to A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas), so naturally, I am so excited for the next book. Kind of like I really need Moon Lovers to be renewed for another season. We shall see.
Anyways, I gave this book five stars (★★★★★), naturally. If you’re wondering whether to buy this book or check it out from the library, I’d go for buying it. Not only is the cover even more gorgeous – and super nice feeling – in real life, but the story is amazing and basically begs for a re-read.