ARC review: We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal

Hardcover, 480 pages

Annotation:

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.


My rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Love is for children, said the girl. Death is for fools, said the shadow. Darkness is my destiny, said the boy. Allegiance is my undoing, said the eagle. Suffering is our fate, said the beauty. And they were all horribly wrong.

A story that promises richness of Ancient Arawiya, tortured assassin princes, and brave maidens who will definitely save the day: sign me in! I was so very excited to read We Hunt the Flame, especially because it was written by a Muslim author writing about Muslim culture.

We Hunt the Flame is a story about Zafira– a Huntress who ventures into the magical and dangerous Arz (a kind of enchanted forest) to feed her people and family. One day Zafira encounters a Witch who tells her Zafira is the only person who can save Arawiya and bring magic back to it.
Nasir is the Prince of Death who assassins people by his father King’s orders. He never questions his father and there’s something dark and disturbing lurking in Nasir’s past. One day his father sends him on a mission to hunt down the Hunter, kill him, and retrieve the magical book which will bring the magic back to Arawiya.

Pros:

+ Star-crossed lovers, unexpected allies and loads of adventures are the right vibes to get from this book. Also, a very rich Arabic world, which was fascinating and brought me back to my favourite One thousand and one night stories.

+ Nasir, the Prince of Death is purely an image from Assassin’s Creed game! I don’t know about you, but I LOVE that game series, so the game’s vibe was so on point. I instantly fell in love with Nasir. Plus, he’s a prince and a damaged soul <— My speciality *grins*

To the people, he was not Nasir Ghameq, crown prince of Arawiya, no. He was the purger of souls. The Prince of Death.

“We don’t uphold the brutality of murder. Our creed is calculated, precise; we are poets of the kill, working from the shadows.”

I really liked how complex and disturbing Nasir’s and his father’s relationships were. The King was humiliating Nasir physically and mentally for many years, but he loved his father and was searching for his approval. I found it realistic that Nazir loved a monster for the reasons beyond the concept of good and evil.

+ A very rich cast of secondary characters. In other words, this book is a feast of secondary characters: well-developed secondary characters!

A special place in my heart holds Altair (a huge wink to fans of assassin’s creed with its MC Altair!!). The closest character I can compare him to is Roshar from The Winner’s Curse trilogy. Altair is funny, sarcastic, handsome and holds a few aces up his sleeve. Oh, and the way he gets under Nasir’s skin! Honestly, they have better chemistry than Nasir and Zafira do!

“Ah, so you’re not as dumb as your father makes you seem,” Altair said with a laugh. “I can’t wait until we meet the Hunter. I’ll have to introduce you as: he’s not always this grumpy. Then again, he’s one of those people who talks less and murders more.”

“Do you ever wonder why women focus so much on me? ”(Altair)
“Maybe because you resemble a lost, rabid dog?” (Nasir)

Ahaha, my baby!

Cons:

The start of the story was very slow, to the point of 30% in the book where things finally started to get somewhere in the direction of the plot. It’s not always a bother for me in the books, as I am not opposed to slow pacing, but in this case, it felt like the storyline wanted to move faster but something was slowing it down: dialogues and farewell parties.

The romance was too obvious and intrusive. I was really looking to the ‘from enemies to lovers’ part, but when we finally got there it just didn’t feel like it. Remember our favourite ‘she forgot how to breath when she saw him’ trope? Well, here we got it backwards. Nasir was the one who couldn’t stop ogling Zafira’s abs, and the girl had some, though metaphorical. He couldn’t stop thinking how regal and strong she is, how curvacious, how bright her icy ice are and so on *eye roll* Come on!

It was proving difficult to think when she looked at him.

There was courage in the slight lift of her chin. Confidence in the press of her mouth.

If there was anything other than shame that he had felt when she fell upon him, it was that she was wholly woman. Nasir loosed a slow breath.

When she met his eyes and flashed her grin and spoke in her lilting accent, he wasn’t heir of Arawiya, hashashin and Prince of Death. He was a boy.

Special snowflake syndrome. Look, I am not a child, I can get an opinion based on what I see. What I can’t stand is when I am been told what to think. Zafira is a special snowflake. Simple. Like. That. In every word, every action, through other characters’ eyes – she’s the one and only.

Neo from Matrix, step aside, you are not the chosen one anymore!

“Why? Why are you doing this?” Lana asked. “I’m the only chance we have,” Zafira said.

Über-feminism. I don’t believe it’s a true term, just something I have recently started using in regards to the young adult genre. I am so often faced with young women who perceive feminism as a form of replacing men by women becoming manly. It can be displayed in many forms but is always accompanied by aggression directed at the opposite sex. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that women’s rights is a very acute topic and I would love to see equality from both sides. But, please, authors stop turning your heroines into the only true measure of justice. Stop pushing in my face how special and amazing they are, how men don’t have anything on them, how they don’t need men, and so on. STOP PUSHING THAT AT MY FACE. At some point, I started to feel really annoyed by Zafira and her specialness. Everyone and everything pales in comparison. Special snowflake dash feminist just doesn’t work the way authors wish it would.

I will show him what a woman can do. She startled herself with that thought, rough and angry. Because conquering the Arz wasn’t enough. Now she was going to Sharr. She was going to bring her father justice, kings and witches be damned. And when she returned, magic in her grasp, she would give a calipha her throne. She would give Arawiya magic and make the king himself bow before her.

Overall, a very promising debut with intriguing concept but a little bit raw on the edges. Recommended!

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