Title: We Hunt the Flame
Series: Sands of Arawiya #1
Author: Hafsah Faizal
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Published: May 14th, 2019 (Farrar, Strauss and Giroux)
Synopsis: 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.
Zafira is the legendary Hunter who can venture into the cursed forest of the Arz to feed her people and return unharmed – but if anyone were to ever find out that the Hunter is actually a girl, her achievements would be considered meaningless. Crown Prince Nasir of Arawiya is better known as the Prince of Death for the many assassinations he has carried out at the command of his ruthless father, the Sultan, and forbidden to display any compassion. The caliphates are growing restless however, and war is on the horizon as the Sultan grows more power hungry, but the immediate threat is the Arz which creeps closer by the day. Zafira sets out on a quest to find an artifact that can bring back magic to the lands and destroy the Arz where on the other hand, Nasir is ordered to go the same quest – but to kill the Hunter once the artifact is found and retrieve the artifact for the Sultan. But a larger scheme is at play here, and Zafira and Nasir must become reluctant allies to face an evil greater than anything either of them anticipated.
This book was actually so much better the second time reading it! I love the world-building and the cultural feel you get from the story is simply amazing and transports the reader into the fascinating world of Arawiya. Pacing wise, this story is rather uneven in my opinion, in that it starts out rather swiftly, jumping straight into Zafira and Nasir’s paths to the island of Sharr, getting the quest underway – but slows down significantly once there, and nothing unexpected really happens until closer to the end. What really keeps things together though is the beautiful writing. I’m not usually one for flowery prose, but the way this was written just made things so rich and vivid that this is one of the few exceptions.
The characters are both interesting and likeable (though Altair is such a pain) and their dynamic and banter is very entertaining. Zafira was…nice enough, and I did enjoy her character arc throughout the story. Nasir, however, was undoubtedly my favourite character – he has got to be one of the most angstiest figures in YA that I’ve come across, but the flashbacks into his past and the glimpses of his true character that he tries so hard to hide are quite intriguing. Altair is undoubtedly a major pain, but as the story unfolds, it becomes evident that he’s also a morally grey character hiding behind a facade that reminded me a lot of Nikolai Lantsov from the Grishaverse – and given how things ended, I’m actually more interested to see where his path leads next than any of the others.
We Hunt the Flame was high on my list for 2019, but I found myself a little disappointed with it – not plot wise, but presentation wise. There were times when it felt like there was just too much going on and the story felt very complicated to the point that I struggled to remember what I was reading. There is also a lot of thought narration which usually works for my reading style, but in this book felt like it was dragging things out too much.
I had major doubts about reading the next book because this was so frustrating to get through, but because of the way this first book ended alone, I’m now curious about what is going to happen next and I can’t wait to return to the world of Arawiya. This story and world definitely has potential, and I’m hoping We Free the Stars will be easier to read while remaining just as rich in action and lore. This book would be a good choice for fantasy fans if you don’t mind a slower pace and I would definitely recommend it!
Have you read this book? Let me know in the comments below!
Other reviews in this series: