Mariko, the only daughter of a prominent samurai, is resigned to an imperial marriage. On her way to the imperial city of Inako, Mariko’s convoy is ambushed by a group of bandits known as the Black Clan. Mariko escapes and learns that the Black Clan was hired to kill her. Disguised as a peasant boy, Mariko sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan and hunt down those who want her dead. Once she’s within their ranks, Mariko finds for the first time she’s appreciated for her intellect and abilities and uncovers a dark history of secrets that force her to question everything she’s ever known.
Mariko is the privileged daughter of a prominent samurai in feudal Japan. Despite having her own skills and intellect, Mariko knows her place and believes she has no choice in her own fate. She’s sent to the imperial city of Inako to marry the emperor’s son. On her journey through the forest, her litter is attacked by a gang known as the Black Clan. Mariko narrowly escapes and decides to hunt down the truth and exact her revenge. She dresses as a peasant boy and infiltrates the Black Clan; however, things don’t turn out exactly as she planned. She soon finds herself acting as a reluctant ally and her talents are valued for the first time. Her brother Kenshin, the Dragon of Kai, is a cruel but honorable samurai determined to save Mariko, but Mariko uncovers secrets that turn her worldview on its head. It begs the question: does Mariko want to be saved?
One of the strongest elements of Flame in the Mist is the backdrop of feudal Japan. It’s a detailed and atmospheric portrayal that transports the reader to another world. It’s filled with Japanese mythology, history, culture and hints of magic. This dazzling world comes to life with a complex and multi-layered cast of characters. Mariko is headstrong and fierce; she demonstrates personal growth as she slowly unveils her cunning and realizes she may have found something worth fighting for. The female characters, including a young geiko, show that there are different ways of being strong when you’re living in a world where women hold no power. The Black Clan is filled with lovable and interesting characters, including a leader who is fighting his own inner battles and ends up in a tense gender-bending romance. No one is as they seem and, by the end, so much is clouded in mystery that it’s a perfect set up for the next book.
Flame in the Mist has a compelling cast of characters, exciting adventure, swoon-worthy romantic tension, and a setting that comes alive. Above all else, it’s fun!