Review: Flame in the Mist by Renée Ahdieh

  • Summary: Vibrant, action-packed series starter set in a fascinating time
  • Type: YA fantasy adventure/ romance (first in a series)
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Review

As first seen on USA Today

“I believe the stars align so souls can find one another. Whether they are meant to be souls in love or souls in life remains to be seen.”

Renée Ahdieh delivers a vibrant, action-packed historical fantasy that unfurls in Feudal Japan. During a time when a katana slicing through the air hailed justice, and powerful shoguns and samurai ruled, a story shaped by betrayal, honor and belonging takes shape.

Seventeen-year-old Mariko is betrothed to Minamoto Raiden, son of the Emperor—her hopes for freedom dashed by a future for which she has no province. But on her way to the imperial city of Inako, where she is to wed, Mariko’s convoy is ambushed. Narrowly escaping death, she hatches a plan to infiltrate the Black Clan—the group of ruthless bandits hired to kill her.

Under the guise of a boy, opportunistic luck lands Mariko with exactly the group she’s targeted. It’s then she meets Takeda Ranmaru, and his second-in-command, the enigmatic and deadly Okami.

Before long, Ranmaru and Okami take Mariko under their wing. She’s proves her value with impressive intellect and cunning. The deeper she goes undercover, however, the more questions arise, the more she begins to forge a kinship with those she ought to keep at a distance.

Worse yet, she uncovers troublesome truths which call to question what she’s come to know. Everything becomes difficult to decipher, even as she realizes she’s finally found a place, a people, for which to belong.

And when her secret is discovered by the person she’s come to have feelings for, the futures of them all upends.

While connections and political entanglements can sometimes feel hard to follow, Ahdieh creates characters you long to learn more about. She’s adept in building a world that feels enchanting, hypnotic, real and sensual. Every page shimmers with intrigue and desire, and I felt immersed in a world marked by juxtaposing acts of honor and brutality, treachery and loyalty.

The heroine, Mariko, longs for a different future and on her journey, she begins to learn that it is up to her to create her own fate—that it’s her choices, her actions, that defines who she is and wants to be.

I’m excited for what’s to come.

About Flame in the Mist

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Wrath and the Dawn, comes a sweeping, action-packed YA adventure set against the backdrop of Feudal Japan where Mulan meets Throne of Glass.

The daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has long known her place—she may be an accomplished alchemist, whose cunning rivals that of her brother Kenshin, but because she is not a boy, her future has always been out of her hands. At just seventeen years old, Mariko is promised to Minamoto Raiden, the son of the emperor’s favorite consort—a political marriage that will elevate her family’s standing. But en route to the imperial city of Inako, Mariko narrowly escapes a bloody ambush by a dangerous gang of bandits known as the Black Clan, who she learns has been hired to kill her before she reaches the palace.

Dressed as a peasant boy, Mariko sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan and track 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.

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Review: The Rose & the Dagger (The Wrath & the Dawn) by Renée Ahdieh

My Thoughts

Exhilarating, magical and fiercely romantic
—everything I’d hoped for in the finale!

Synopsis

The Rose and The Dagger Wrath DawnI am surrounded on all sides by a desert. A guest, in a prison of sand and sun. My family is here. And I do not know whom I can trust.

In a land on the brink of war, Shahrzad has been torn from the love of her husband Khalid, the Caliph of Khorasan. She once believed him a monster, but his secrets revealed a man tormented by guilt and a powerful curse—one that might keep them apart forever. Reunited with her family, who have taken refuge with enemies of Khalid, and Tariq, her childhood sweetheart, she should be happy. But Tariq now commands forces set on destroying Khalid’s empire. Shahrzad is almost a prisoner caught between loyalties to people she loves. But she refuses to be a pawn and devises a plan.

While her father, Jahandar, continues to play with magical forces he doesn’t yet understand, Shahrzad tries to uncover powers that may lie dormant within her. With the help of a tattered old carpet and a tempestuous but sage young man, Shahrzad will attempt to break the curse and reunite with her one true love.

My Review

In a stirring storm of swordfights, secrets and sacrifice, Renée Ahdieh splendidly concludes this lushly imagined duology where true love struggles against the power of a deadly curse.

Shazi and Khalid try to find their way back to each other in the aftermath of a city left in ruins, of a love ripped apart.

What have we done?

As Shahrzad’s father whispered spells into the night, lightning rent the sky burning a beloved city to ashes. Thousands in Rey perished in its wrath. Meanwhile, Shazi was taken from the marble palace that had become her home.

He’s where I live.

But even amongst her relatives, Shazi felt lost. A crescive ache marked each day without Khalid. The curse had to be broken — fast — since war readied against the man she loved. With many a vengeful eye on her, however, the task proved difficult.

I don’t belong here. A guest in a prison of sand and sun.

Bonds of friendship and family fractured as tension escalated and sides were chosen. Shazi’s relentless spirit and sharp wits help her forge new alliances, even though she’s attested that Khalid was not the monster everyone thought him to be.

… they were two parts of a whole. He did not belong to her. And she did not belong to him. It was never about belonging to someone. It was about belonging together.

So much happens in this sequel’s narrative. A rich undercurrent of subplots twisted the story in ways unexpected. Betrayals cut deeply, guilt and rage consumed, new enemies surfaced, valuable powers awakened and finally true love triumphed — but hardly in the way we surmised.

Gushing fans of The Wrath and the Dawn (like me) will be pleased to hear that Ahdieh delivers everything we’d hoped for in this resplendent re-imagining of Arabian Nights.

From the stars, to the stars.

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Review: The Wrath and The Dawn by Renée Ahdieh

6stars

My Review

“After all, every story has a story.”

With its rich and vivid Middle Eastern cultural backdrop and a barely bridled, turbulent romance, this story owned me. It was visceral and experiential. The story came alive remarkably. I felt as if I were transported to another place, another time, where golden sands buried powerful secrets and magic swirled with riotous intention. Ahdieh’s debut novel is impressive and imaginative, bringing to life a story inspired by king Shahryār and his his wife Scheherazade, in A Thousand and One Nights. Khalid and Shahrzad’s story is different, however, and secrets lurk in a way that makes the reading experience fevered and intense.

“This boy-king, this murderer … she would not permit him to destroy another family. To rob another girl of her best friend—of a lifetime filled with memories that had been and never would be.”

Sixteen-year-old Shahrzad’s determination is fueled by vengeance, by a sense of justice. Losing her best friend to a murderous king has moved her to take action. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan,  reigns terror over Rey as he takes a new wife each night, only to murder her each dawn, a silk chord wrapped around their neck. Shahrzad plans to put a stop to these heinous acts, and so she volunteers as his next bride. Shazi leaves behind her father, her sister, her first love, in all likelihood, her life, in efforts to make the monster king pay. On their first night, Shazi woos him with a story… one she does not finish lest she have one more day. And so she does… she meets the dawn, as none others before her have.

Very quickly, however, Shahrzad sees the troubled depths of the Caliph. There’s more to him than what people perceive. He’s a tortured soul, a tormented man with weary, shadowed eyes. He hides secrets she’s now determined to unearth. His past is marred by loss, his present haunted by things Shazi cannot see.

“Trust that the man you see now is a shadow of what lies beneath. If you would, give him the love that will enable him to see it for himself. To a lost soul, such a treasure is worth its weight in gold. Worth its weight in dreams.”

Anger, curiosity and an unexpected desire battle in Shazi with every moment she spends with Khalid. There are moments of connection and vulnerability, but also moments that bring into sharp focus who he is, what he’s done and what she must do.

As one dawn turns into many, secrets begin to unravel as plans take shape elsewhere. Khalid’s past shackles his future, while Shazi’s family and friends threaten her newfound happiness. Because as much as her heart and thoughts deny it, she’s fallen for the king she planned to kill.

Khalid’s pain is deeply felt, and my heart broke for a man who clearly was able to love and desire, who suffered in silence.

“It’s a fitting punishment for a monster. To want something so much—to hold it in your arms—and know beyond a doubt you will never deserve it.”

The connection between Shazi and Khalid, between this girl and this boy, was electric, despite the multiple issues that swirl around them. And as emotions intensify and dangerous plans are unleashed, Shazi must make a choice that will determine much for so many.

“Khalid had to answer for such vile deeds. Such rampant death. Even if he was her air. Even if she loved him beyond words.”

The novel’s conclusion unfurls in such a heart-pounding way. At the flip of the final page, I desperately wanted more… wanted to re-read it from the beginning immediately as to not be finished with this wildly exotic and vivid world.

There was just something really special about this story. How it came alive. How it seemed to almost glitter brightly, appealing to all the senses. It was decadent and colorful, luscious and exotic, fearless and seductive. It’s one of the top three novels I’ve read this year and my new favorite obsession. This book must not be missed by any discerning reader.

Synopsis

$1.99 ★TOP FAVE★

A sumptuous and epically told love story inspired by A Thousand and One Nights

Every dawn brings horror to a different family in a land ruled by a killer. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, takes a new bride each night only to have her executed at sunrise. So it is a suspicious surprise when sixteen-year-old Shahrzad volunteers to marry Khalid. But she does so with a clever plan to stay alive and exact revenge on the Caliph for the murder of her best friend and countless other girls. Shazi’s wit and will, indeed, get her through to the dawn that no others have seen, but with a catch . . . she’s falling in love with the very boy who killed her dearest friend.

She discovers that the murderous boy-king is not all that he seems and neither are the deaths of so many girls. Shazi is determined to uncover the reason for the murders and to break the cycle once and for all.

Reading Order

 

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