Book Review: We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal

by Jia

Author: Hafsah Faizal

Genre: YA Fantasy

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Rating: ★★★★★

Book Summary:

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.

Where do I even begin?! This book, my god. We Hunt the Flame was one of my most anticipated books of the year and I loved every bit of it. I connected with the characters as soon as they appeared in the book, and absolutely loved them throughout. We Hunt the Flame has great representation of both Middle Eastern characters and culture. There are not very many books with characters who look like me, who have names that are similar to mine, or the culture I grew up in, so books like We Hunt the Flame will forever have a special place in my heart. I want to thank Hafsah Faizal for writing such a beautiful Arabian-inspired novel, and for doing such a great job. At a time when most of the Middle Eastern representation in media is negative and disheartening, this book really gave me (and I’m sure many others!) a chance to breathe and enjoy the culture. If you’re Middle Eastern, or would like to read Middle Eastern inspired books, please do give this a read as I’m sure you’ll love it.

The writing in this book was so beautiful and I cannot believe this is Hafsah Faizal’s debut novel. Her use of Arabic words throughout the book (which often had me screaming every time a word I use regularly myself showed up!) added to the beauty of the world. Although some words like daama and kharra did not make sense in come contexts. The setting and culture in this book is unapologetically Middle Eastern and I am so happy and proud that we are getting more books like this. I may have shed a tear or two (or a million) whilst reading simply because the way Hafsah describes the setting and culture is so beautiful. Hafsah Faizal’s writing is very lyrical and descriptive, so readers won’t find it hard at all to find themselves immersed in the world alongside the characters. Many of the quotes and lines in the book are very empowering as well, which is another reason I absolutely loved reading We Hunt the Flame. A line I personally love very much is:

“If you want me obedient, Prince, kill me and carry my corpse.”

The characters were my favourite part of We Hunt the Flame. Zafira bint Iskandar is a young seventeen year old girl who travels to the Arz regularly to hunt and provide food for her people. But being from a caliphate where women do not have the same rights and freedoms are the others, she must hide her identity in order to do so. Something I loved about Zafira is that she is a determined and fierce girl, but there are moments where you are reminded that she is indeed just a kid thrust into much more responsibility someone her age should have to take on. She is not arrogant about her hunts and is at times even scared of the Arz and the mysterious quest she has to go on. Which makes her even more relatable because she is not some woman with insane amounts of power. She is a girl who is simply fighting to keep her people fed. Zafira seemed much more relatable than other YA/NA female characters I’ve read of recently. Despite this, she is a sassy young girl and is more than capable of taking care of herself. She travels to Sharr, a place feared by everyone in Arawiya to retrieve an artifact she believes will restore magic to the kingdom.

Nasir Ghameq, on the other hand, is the crown prince and is somewhat of a legend in Arawiya, and is also known as the Prince of Death. He is sent by his father, the Sultan, to kill people throughout the kingdom who dare to oppose or stand up against him in any way. We see Nasir, who has to hide his compassion and hurt, come to terms with this throughout the book and I couldn’t help but feel for him. What makes this even more heartbreaking is that if his father were to learn of his compassion and that humanness inside of him, Nasir would be punished in the most cruel and evil of ways. The Sultan instructs him to follow the Hunter to Sharr and take the artifact before him, undoubtedly to have it for himself. Hafsah Faizal does a brilliant job of showing the conflict that Nasir goes through as someone who must obey his father’s orders but also has to hide his compassionate side. If you love dark and brooding men in your books, you will absolutely fall in love with Nasir just as I did.

Altair al-Badawi is also a definite new favourite character of mine. Altair is the General of the Sultan’s army and goes with Nasir to Sharr to help him find the artifact that they are looking for. I loved his quips and the banter between him and Nasir, he is absolutely hilarious and there were many moments where I burst out laughing because of something he said or did. His jokes definitely help lighten up the otherwise dark atmosphere of the book. I loved the two side characters, Benyamin Haadi and Kifah Darwish as well, and the way they all journeyed through Sharr. Every character goes there for different reasons, and as a reader you get to see how this influences the decisions they make throughout the book.

Another thing I loved about We Hunt the Flame was the romance – it is slow burn and enemies to lovers, and I know we all love a good enemies to lovers book! It was so well written and so angsty – and damn, some of those scenes, fam. If you love slow burn romances and the enemies to lovers trope, you will love the romance in We Hunt the Flame. I am so ready to see what Hafsah Faizal does in the next book because I quite honestly thought my heart was going to stop during some scenes in this one.

I absolutely loved this book and I doubt any book this year will top We Hunt the Flame for me. The characters, the setting, the writing, the Arabic sprinkled throughout the book, it was all so beautiful, and I can see myself rereading this a million times. If you decide to read this (you should), I hope you love it as much as I did.

Mabrouk on your debut!

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