Flame in the Mist

368p. Putnam. May 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780399171635. POP
Gr 10 Up—Rich in magical realism and cultural nuance of feudal Japan, Ahdieh's series starter begins with a girl-power bang. Mariko is bound to the empire's center as part of an arranged marriage to a royal son: a union she dreads. Her caravan is set upon by raiders who slash and kill their way through the convoy. Only through cunning does Mariko emerge from the ashes relatively unscathed. No longer content to please her family by marrying a prince, Mariko now sets out with a vengeance upon the Black Clan, whom she holds responsible for her attempted assassination and the murder of her convoy. Her plan, not well thought out at first, involves infiltrating the ranks of the Black Clan, so she disguises herself as a boy and successfully meets up with the Black Clan. However, the leader of the clan, Takeda Ranmaru, suspects her—of something. The clan's best fighter, Okami, or "The Wolf," is more complex than Mariko originally thinks. And when she is forced to choose between her famed samurai brother, who is searching for her, and the clan, her decision becomes complicated by unexpected factors. Ahdieh's strength lies in her intricate characterizations and detailed descriptions, all of which are perfectly showcased in feudal Japan. Elements of magic run through this Mulan-inspired tale as young boys turn into beasts and back into boys again.
VERDICT A wonderful choice for YA shelves, especially where lush fantasy is popular.

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