Review: We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal

Title: We Hunt the Flame [Sands of Arawiya #1]
Author: Hafsah Faizal
Genre: YA Fantasy
Publication Date: May 14, 2019
GoodReads

Synopsis:

People lived because she killed.
People died because he lived.

Zafira is the Hunter, disguising herself as a man when she braves the cursed forest of the Arz to feed her people. Nasir is the Prince of Death, assassinating those foolish enough to defy his autocratic father, the king. If Zafira was exposed as a girl, all of her achievements would be rejected; if Nasir displayed his compassion, his father would punish him in the most brutal of ways.

Both are legends in the kingdom of Arawiya—but neither wants to be.

War is brewing, and the Arz sweeps closer with each passing day, engulfing the land in shadow. When Zafira embarks on a quest to uncover a lost artifact that can restore magic to her suffering world and stop the Arz, Nasir is sent by the king on a similar mission: retrieve the artifact and kill the Hunter. But an ancient evil stirs as their journey unfolds—and the prize they seek may pose a threat greater than either can imagine.

Set in a richly detailed world inspired by ancient Arabia, We Hunt the Flame is a gripping debut of discovery, conquering fear, and taking identity into your own hands.

Review:

We Hunt the Flame wasn’t at all what I expected. It was a mystical adventure through a dessert island abandoned by the beings who created it, with deep, rich world building that brought to life a world slightly grey – deprived of the magic that once saturated the air and ran through people’s veins. Honestly, I came for the gender swap, but stayed for the ancient Arabian inspired landscape and the friendships forged throughout this book.

Zafira is such a strong female character. Introduced as the Hunter, she’s the only person who can navigate through the Arz – forest that shifts and grows over time, and has magic in it that can confuse even the best navigators. To her village, the Hunter is their saviour. At the time where the Arz is growing and the land is cold, Zafira provides for her village pelts and meat. Her character grows so much throughout this story, and she learns to be comfortable and badass as herself, not just as a woman masquerading as a man.

There is one point in the book where she loses someone important to her, and the death affects her for all of 3.5 seconds and haunts her every 50 pages or so, and that person is all but forgotten by the end. The story takes place over about two weeks to a month. I lost a close friend around the same age and it’s been three years and I still think about them every couple days. I get that she was busy saving the world and stuff, but like where’s the gut-wrenching heartbreak, and the tears, and grief. This is the one thing about this book that just didn’t like. Just because a girl is strong doesn’t mean she doesn’t feel. I hate when protagonists are badasses and therefore aren’t allowed to breakdown and hurt. That’s not a realistic expectation to put on people, no matter their age. Pain is pain, and people (everyone) should be allowed to wallow in it, process it, and then move on. That’s the healthy way at least… /rant over/.

Nasir is compassionate and that is seen as his biggest weakness. I love that the author created this character for the same reasons I hate that she decided that Zafira just had to get over it – compassion, empathy, and love are all a part of being human. Nasir’s biggest battle is his wish to throw his feelings out the window and be the strong, emotionless person his father expects him to be. I liked seeing that struggle because of how relevant it is in today’s culture. The idea that men need to fulfill a certain level of authority without showing weakness. That was Nasir. And his compassion didn’t make him any less badass, which is such an important message.

I’m not even going to touch on the secondary characters here or else this whole review will be pages long. I loved the characters as a whole – their friendship and camaraderie make this book enjoyable. Faizal brings her characters to life and makes you feel for them, makes your heart break for them. This story was phenomenal – the magic, the world building, the wonderful prose – and I’m super excited to read the sequel!

Plot: 4/5
Characters: 4.5/5
World Building: 5/5
Pacing: 4/5
Writing: 5/5
Overall: 4/5
GoodReads Rating: 3.89/5

eARC received via Indigo Books & Music via NetGalley.

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