REVIEW: Flame in the Mist

Book Review: Flame in the Mist
book cover Book title Flame in the Mist
Series/standalone Flame in the Mist #1
Author Renee Ahdieh
Pages 393
Year published 2017
Category | Genre Young Adult | Fantasy | Romance
Rating 3.5 stars

Official Summary

The only daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has always known she’d been raised for one purpose and one purpose only: to marry. Never mind her cunning, which rivals that of her twin brother, Kenshin, or her skills as an accomplished alchemist. Since Mariko was not born a boy, her fate was sealed the moment she drew her first breath.

So, at just seventeen years old, Mariko is sent to the imperial palace to meet her betrothed, a man she did not choose, for the very first time. But the journey is cut short when Mariko’s convoy is viciously attacked by the Black Clan, a dangerous group of bandits who’ve been hired to kill Mariko before she reaches the palace.

The lone survivor, Mariko narrowly escapes to the woods, where she plots her revenge. Dressed as a peasant boy, she sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan and hunt down those responsible for the target on her back. Once she’s within their ranks, though, Mariko finds for the first time she’s appreciated for her intellect and abilities. She even finds herself falling in love—a love that will force her to question everything she’s ever known about her family, her purpose, and her deepest desires.


In A Nutshell

A tale of political intrigue, betrayal, and romance with the backdrop of feudal Japan.


  • The beautiful prose. Ahdieh has a gift for writing gorgeous prose and it’s getting even better here. In ‘The Wrath and the Dawn”, I found her writing to be coming too close from being purple prose at times, although admittedly still beautiful. In Flame in the Mist, Ahdieh has stepped up her writing even more. Her words are gorgeous, but not flowery, vivid without being excessively descriptive.
  • Worldbuilding. The author surely knows how to paint a world with words, filled with imagery that could transport her readers back in time. Although at times, it feels a little too gimmicky, the combination of history and mythology was balanced nicely. Ahdieh’s attention to details when describing a building or a scene contributes well to this book’s great worldbuilding.
  • The moral dilemma. I was absolutely delighted with the way the characters were written so that no one is inherently bad nor good. Nothing and no one was morally black and white.The moral dilemma faced by Mariko was one I could sympathize with and she’s an earnest character capable of making readers invested in her arc.

Things I Wish Were Different

  • The romance. Oh my, I truly want to like the romance. After how TWATD (The Wrath and the Dawn) melted my heart despite me not liking Shazi that much, I was fully prepared to ship the main pairing in this book. After all, I liked Mariko better. Unfortunately, it felt forced and I have no idea where it came from. It was not an insta-love, but I didn’t see the chemistry developing between them so it baffled me. There is, however, less of romantic scenes in this book than in TWATD.
  • Logical fallacy and unconvincing explanation. The first part of the book left me in a state of disbelief. The unconvincing explanation, such as how Mariko – the naive and sheltered girl – could fool all of those people into believing that she is a boy. It was partially explained near the end of the book, but I still cannot buy it 100%. She also made several decisions that were quite out of characters and yet she conveniently escaped the consequences of her poor decisions.
  • More times for secondary characters, please. I know it’s not their story, but Yumi and Amaya were some of the characters I wish to know better.

Final Score

3.5 stars
3.5 stars (out of 5 stars)


Ahdieh’s gorgeous writing and lush worldbuilding could capture my attention and enchant me throughout the book despite some issues in the narrative. I will be reading the second book for sure.

Review: The Wrath & the Dawn (Renee Ahdieh)

Book Review: The Wrath & the Dawn (Renee Ahdieh)
book cover Book title The Wrath & the Dawn
Series/standalone The Wrath & the Dawn #1
Author Renee Ahdieh
Pages 388
Year published 2015
Category | Genre Young Adult | Fantasy, Retelling
Rating 3.5 star

Official Summary

One Life to One Dawn.

In a land ruled by a murderous boy-king, each dawn brings heartache to a new family. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, is a monster. Each night he takes a new bride only to have a silk cord wrapped around her throat come morning. When sixteen-year-old Shahrzad’s dearest friend falls victim to Khalid, Shahrzad vows vengeance and volunteers to be his next bride. Shahrzad is determined not only to stay alive, but to end the caliph’s reign of terror once and for all.

Night after night, Shahrzad beguiles Khalid, weaving stories that enchant, ensuring her survival, though she knows each dawn could be her last. But something she never expected begins to happen: Khalid is nothing like what she’d imagined him to be. This monster is a boy with a tormented heart. Incredibly, Shahrzad finds herself falling in love. How is this possible? It’s an unforgivable betrayal. Still, Shahrzad has come to understand all is not as it seems in this palace of marble and stone. She resolves to uncover whatever secrets lurk and, despite her love, be ready to take Khalid’s life as retribution for the many lives he’s stolen. Can their love survive this world of stories and secrets?

Inspired by A Thousand and One Nights, The Wrath and the Dawn is a sumptuous and enthralling read from beginning to end.


First and foremost, we got Shahrzad, a brave and headstrong young girl volunteered to marry a murderer to avenge her best friend. Then there’s Khalid, the murderous boy-king. Shazi is a strong heroine, one that could gain sympathies from readers… once they got over their disbelief of her impulsively rushing to meet her end. There, that’s my biggest gripe with The Wrath & the Dawn, that this brave and smart girl who was supposedly cunning enough that she believed she could kill her husband, the king, would rush wildly toward death without any concrete planning. The only signs Ahdieh shows us of Shazi’s plan to kill her husband were when she showed off her archery skill and that one time she thought to kill him but couldn’t make up her mind.

Then there’s the fact that the Khalid married her without any background check. Like… wouldn’t someone find out that Shazi has a best friend who was murdered right there in the palace. But noo, they all rushed in to get the two to wed.

But I digress. Let’s go back to Khalid. For a murderous boy-king, he is not at all a monster – as one would already find out by reading the synopsis. I like Khalid. He was a tortured soul trying to do what’s best for his people while sacrificing himself a bit at a time. As a matter of fact, I like them both. Khalid and Shahrzad were both characters with their own agenda and for once I actually liked the romance in the book. It was not cheesy, you could totally see they’re both trying to stay true to their course, trying not to fall in love, and I cannot help but rooting for them.

On the other hand, there was the jealous boyfriend, who for me was just unnecessary. Not to mention his relationship with Shazi were not shown on-screen making it hard for me to sympathize with his cause. Similar thing could be said of Shiva’s friendship with Shazi. Of course, the best friend is dead by the time the story started, but if only I was given more than a glimpse of how close the two girls were I could probably understand Shazi’s impulsive behavior.

Okay, enough with the negativity. Let’s get to the good stuff. As I mentioned before, the romance is well-balance and complement the story nicely. Shazi’s anger was balanced by her feelings and compassion for other human beings, and so did Khalid’s despair with his feeling for Shazi. Despina was another character worth mentioning. Her interaction with Shazi showed us another side of the latter, and I adored their friendship.

The writing was another highlight of the book. I’m trying to be objective here, so bear with me. Ahdieh’s writing was beautiful, but at times she’s getting way close to flowery prose. For some people, this might be the book undoing. For me, though, it’s exactly what the book needs. It made the book atmospheric, and Ahdieh’s writing was vivid enough to transport the readers to Khorasan. The magic, one of the thing I expected to find in the book was non-existent for the large portion of the book, but that’s okay as there’ll be time for that in the second book. I hope.


The Wrath & the Dawn made me feel conflicted, but it certainly worth reading for the diverse cast, the well-balance romance, the atmospheric setting, and the great writing.

Final Score

3.5 stars (out of 5 stars)

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