Hey, everyone! I’m back with a new book review, and this time it’s for Hafsah Faizal’s debut YA fantasy, We Hunt the Flame!
About the Book
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 sultan. 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 Zafira and Nasir 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 sultan 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. (via Goodreads)
My history with We Hunt the Flame is that I’d previously tried starting it two other times before it finally stuck during this third attempt. And, boy, am I happy that I finally gave this book a fair chance! I ended up enjoying it way more than I expected, and found it to be an extremely strong debut.
First off, the writing is great, and I absolutely loved how contemplative this book was. A lot of fantasy books focus so much on the action sequences and moving the plot along that we don’t get glimpses into the intricacies of how the characters think; We Hunt the Flame really brought that thoughtfulness I’d been missing into fruition. I loved how complex both Zafira and Nasir were, and I really enjoyed reading from their respective points of view. There was so much unspoken between them, but since both of their POVs were done so well, I was on the edge of my seat every time they were near each other LOL. I thought their dynamic was set up extremely well in this first book, and I’m excited to see how it continues to evolve in the sequel.
I did find some of the secondary characters to be a bit lackluster and not nearly as compelling as Zafira and Nasir, but I’m hopeful that we’ll learn more about them in book two.
This world was also to die for. It was so lush, expansive, and tangible. I was transported to Arawiya and totally sucked in, which did wonders for my understanding the world building and some of the language. Usually, I’m extremely confused during the first hundred or so pages of a high fantasy book, but that didn’t happen with We Hunt the Flame. I was extremely impressed with the author’s ability to relay information about each of the five caliphates and the overall political climate in a way that was engaging and fun to read about–I even found myself referencing the map at the beginning of the book.
I was also surprised at just how chalk full of emotion this book was–I teared up a few times while reading it! It’s very rare that I’ll get emotional while reading the first book in a series, but Hafsah Faizal did not pull her punches. The hard-hitting scenes really upped the ante and kept me reading. I ended up reading past midnight just to finish because I needed to know how it all ended.
I will say that some of the descriptions of magic and events that included magic were a bit ambiguous and vague, so I did find myself floundering trying to understand a few of the sequences toward the end. I’m not sure if this was done on purpose or not, but it did temporarily take me out of the story. I also expected a lot more from the found family aspect that I’d seen around in reviews for this book. The character dynamics read more like unlikely allies than found family for me.
This book actually reminded of The Hunger Games at some points, and after doing a bit of research, I learned that Hafsah Faizal got the idea for We Hunt the Flame after consuming both The Hunger Games and The Lord of the Rings films back to back. I don’t know much about The Lord of the Rings, but I can definitely see minor aspects of The Hunger Games featured in this book (Zafira hunts for her people using a bow and arrow, and each of the five caliphates has a specific product or good that they’re known for). However, those inspirations didn’t overshadow just how authentic this book felt. It definitely still stands on its own two feet, and brings with it an originality that I’ve been yearning for from YA fantasy for a while now.
Overall, We Hunt the Flame was a great read. It was filled with high stakes and intrigue, and was set off by an incredibly alluring fantasy world. I’m excited to see how it all ends in the finale!
Star Scale: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Grade Scale: A-