Review: We Hunt The Flame by Hafsah Faizal

I honestly don’t know what took so long for me to pick up this book! It’s been sitting on my TBR for A WHILE and it had all the elements I love in a story – diverse and morally grey characters, a female lead that works to come into her own, a broody and damaged male lead that’s only a monster because he has to be, amazing supporting characters that you fall in love with as much as the leading characters….. ๐Ÿ’–๐Ÿ‘Œ

In case you’ve not heard of We Hunt the Flame, here’s a quick 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 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 Arawiyaโ€”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 unfoldsโ€”and the prize they seek may pose a threat greater than either can imagine.

Macmillan Publishers – We Hunt the Flame Book Details

Set in a world inspired by ancient Arabia, Zafira feels like she has something to prove. Her Caliph doesn’t believe women can or should do anything outside the home. His and others base their ideology on the fact that it was women, specifically the Six Sisters of Old whom ruled over Arawiya for centuries, that cost the land its magic when they disappeared. But Zafira’s people are starving and she has a gift – The ability to hunt in the cursed forest, known as the Arz, without going mad or getting lost. Since women are decidedly not allowed to hunt or even touch a weapon, she disguises herself as a man, taking on the moniker “The Hunter”, and hides her identity from all but her closest friends and family, to do what she must to save her people.

Nasir has been dubbed the “Prince of Death” and his kills are legendary throughout Arawiya. Trained as an assassin, his only purpose is to dispose of those that stand against his power-hungry father, the Sultan. Every bit of softness and sentiment has been beaten out of him because to show love or compassion is a weakness his father can’t abide. And what his father can’t force him to do through pain, he does so through those Nasir cares about. The girl Nasir fell for as a teenager, the one who had her tongue ripped out when his father learned of their burgeoning relationship, is one such example.

When Zafira’s reputation to always find her mark begins to spread, she’s sought out by forces she never imagined and tasked with finding the sacred lost text that can bring magic back. Seeing it as a way to end her people’s suffering once and for all, she reluctantly agrees. Nasir, on the other hand, is sent for a different purpose. He’s to steal the book for his father once it’s found and kill “The Hunter”. But the land they’re sent to – Sharr – is full of dangers no one anticipated, forcing the two groups to form a tenuous alliance to survive. With proximity, the enemy can seem like more than just a job or hated person. And as long dead secrets come to light, making connections with the past, absolutely no one will leave the cursed land unchanged.

I loved that this book pushed me to Google. Sounds weird, I know, but I love books that make me want to understand and learn things I didn’t know before. I was wholly, embarrassingly, unaware of how Islamic governments are structured. I had heard the words caliphate, caliph, and sultan before but I never REALLY thought about them and what they meant. I needed to understand that in order to understand the story fully. That being said, this downloading of new info made it hard for me to get into the story in the beginning. Once I did, it was like a whole world opened up! Those more familiar with Middle Eastern stories probably won’t have the same problems.

One thing I did want to talk about is the romance. I’ve seen in other reviews, it seems to be a hit or miss element. So here’s my take…

I don’t think it’s insta-love and it didn’t read that way for me. I felt like Nasir and Zafira’s attraction was purely physical, especially in the beginning. It happens more often in real life than acknowledged in YA novels and I think it’s okay to have that as an element. Anyway, towards the middle and end of the story, I believe for Nasir, it was still physical but he was beginning to be intrigued by Zafira. She didn’t treat him as the enemy even though she had every right to and she didn’t really treat him as a prince either. She matched him as an equal and that’s something he’s never had before. So I still wouldn’t call it love, in the strictest definition, but the window is there for it to develop. As for Zafira’s side, to me it felt like it was all physical, even at the end of the book. Yes, she had become accustomed to him being around, but I don’t think it goes beyond a friend that you’re sexually attracted to a little bit. Again, to me, it read like the same sort of connection that she had with Deen. Something she could ultimately take or leave as she wished.

Who knows, maybe in the next book, it’ll progress to something deeper. But I liked how Ms. Faisal didn’t make that relationship the sole driving force for Zafira. I liked that she left her some autonomy while still acknowledging that women can have sexual thoughts without it having to mean “love”. Just my two cents though.

Finally, I have to say that my favorite quote from this books was: “To define is to limit“. It’s one of those lines where you just sit back and go, “Huh!” It sticks with you and I imagine will stay with me for years to come.

Have you read We Hunt the Flame? What were you thoughts? Share below. (โยดโ—ก`โ)

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