DNF Review: The Flame in the Mist by Kit Grindstaff

Sunday, June 30, 2013
Title: The Flame in the Mist
Author: Kit Grindstaff
Genre: middle grade, fantasy
Series: N/A
Pages: 464 
Published: April 2013
Source: publishers via NetGalley
Rating: 2.5/5


Fiery-headed Jemma Agromond is not who she thinks she is, and when the secrets and lies behind her life at mist-shrouded Agromond Castle begin to unravel, she finds herself in a chilling race for her life. Ghosts and misfits, a stone and crystals, a mysterious book, an ancient prophecy—all these reveal the truth about Jemma's past and a destiny far greater and more dangerous than she could have imagined in her wildest fantasies. With her telepathic golden rats, Noodle and Pie, and her trusted friend, Digby, Jemma navigates increasingly dark forces, as helpers both seen and unseen, gather. But in the end, it is her own powers that she must bring to light, for only she has the key to defeating the evil ones and fulfilling the prophecy that will bring back the sun and restore peace in Anglavia.
I really, really wanted to love this novel. Middle grade fantasy can be really inventive and fun, but after several days and300 pages of struggle, I had to call it. A fantasy with a lighter tone, with The Flame in the Mist Grindstaff weaves themes of courage and endurance, but it never really resonated with me. Younger readers will probably find more to love with Jemma's story, but I needed more subtlety and originality  in order to click with this book.

I didn't read the last 150 pages, but I did skim it to see if I was missing a turn for the better. Grindstaff does take some risks and uses some darker elements as the story wraps up, but for me it was just too little to late. So much of the story at the heart of the novel is wrapped up in fantasy genre tropes. There's: a prophecy hundreds of years in the making, a "Chosen One" who doesn't know they are special, and the antagonists are one-dimensional for the majority of the novel.

Jemma isn't a bad protagonist - her humor and charm are obvious - but she is somewhat flat in the beginning. And also really really lucky. Several times she is in just the right spot to hear very detailed plans of the evildoers that directly pertain to her. It's very... convenient that a family which has kept a secret for 12 years would start discussing their nefarious aims in an area Jemma could very easily be. The plot hinges on some very ridiculous turns and reveals, all of which I found to be too obvious or just predictable.

There are a ton of four and five-star reviews out for this already, so my apathy is uncommon. It seems to be a "it's not you, it's me" situation. I wanted to like this, but there just wasn't anything that grabbed me. The writing is decent, if simple, but the target audience generally won't mind. The Flame in the Mist would be an excellent introduction to the fantasy genre, bur for readers already accustomed to it, it will make less of an impression.


  1. Great review, Jessie! Middle grade fantasy isn't for me, but I'm sorry this one didn't work for you like others do.:)

  2. Oh no!! LIKE THIS ONE, DAMMIT!!


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