Saturday, 1 May 2021

, , , , , , , , ,

Review: We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal

We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal

We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal


Published: 27th August 2019 | Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books | Source: NetGalley
Hafsah Faizal's Website

People lived because she killed. People died because he lived.

Nobody knows that Zafira is the Hunter. Forced to disguise herself as a man, she braves the cursed forest to feed her people. If she is exposed as a girl, all of her achievements will be rejected.

Nasir is the infamous Prince of Death, assassinating those foolish enough to defy his autocratic father, the sultan. If he refuses he will be punished in the most brutal of ways.
Both are legends in the kingdom of Arawiya – but neither wants to be. And when Zafira embarks on a quest to restore magic to her suffering world, Nasir is sent by the sultan on a similar mission: retrieve magic 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, Hafsah Faizal's We Hunt the Flame – first in the Sands of Arawiya duology – is a gripping debut of discovery, conquering fear, and taking identity into your own hands.
From The StoryGraph

I received this eProof for free from Macmillan Children's Books via NetGalley for the purposes of providing an honest review.


I'd been really looking forward to reading We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal since first hearing about it; being a high fantasy inspired by the ancient world of Arabia, it was right up my street. However, I was disappointed by the story on the whole.

We Hunt the Flame has such an intriguing premise, and had so much potential! Arawiya is a kingdom that is out of magic. The Six Sisters, magical immortal women, were able to keep the kingdom thriving with the use of their magic. But when they were killed whilst battling an enemy, magic left with them. Instead, a darker magic, unable to be fought or stopped, has been slowly encroaching on the kingdom. Each of the six caliphates is affected differently, with Zafira's caliphate living in an endless winter, but all are surrounded by the Arz, a forest of absolute darkness that grows bigger every day, and takes the sanity of any who venture in - a forest that will eventually take over the whole kingdom. But Zafira has the uncanny gift of being able to find her way in the Arz while keeping possession of her mind, and is able to hunt game to feed the starving people of her caliphate. It's this gift that leads to her being invited to take on a task on the prison island of Sharr, an island overtaken by dark magic, to find a lost book known as the Jawarat, which is told will bring magic back to the kingdom. Nasir, son of the Sultan and hashasin, an elite assassin, is sent by his cruel, tyrannical father to follow Zafira, and, once she's found the Jarawat, kill her and bring it back to him.

It sounds so awesome, right? But it fell flat for me, unfortunately. It's told from the perspective of both Zafira and Nasir, and for most of the story, their chapters alternate. Zafira is a woman in a caliphate that believes women are cursed, due to the fact that the Six Sisters were women and magic died with them. So she disguises herself as a man to enter the Arz, known only as the Hunter. Only a few close friends and family know of the Hunter's identity. She's the only one keeping them going, so when the invitation to try to find the lost Jawarat, she can't turn it down despite the danger involved; with the Arz getting ever closer, something has to be done. Nasir is an unwilling assassin, forced to kill those who oppose the Sultan, over and over, to keep those he cares about from being punished by his failure to obey. His hands are covered in the blood of innocents, but can see no way out from under the rule of the Sultan. Going to Sharr to hunt the Hunter is just another job for Nasir, another burden of guilt.

The first problem with We Hunt the Flame is that it's very slow. 30% of the story goes by before Zafira and Nasir even leave to head for Sharr. And when they do - and end up forming a temporary allegiance in order to survive, along with Altair, a general that came with Nasir that he's been ordered to kill while there, and later, Benyamin, an immortal Safin, and Kifah, one of the Elite Nine warriors of caliphate Pelusia - we get the second problem; apart from a few instances of coming up against ifrit and evil Safin, nothing really happens. The majority of the story is internal reflection, while spending days traipsing the dunes and ruins of the island of Sharr. Nasir is constantly woe-is-me, which I get, obviously, but it's all the time, and it becomes too much. Zafira discovers a number of things while on Sharr, some that are pretty important, and a lot of the time, she's constantly thinking about them. Or those she left behind. Or if she can trust the Silver Witch who gave the invitation in the first place. Or if she can trust her companions. Or when Nasir will kill her. Or the strange attraction she has to him. Or... You get the picture. It's kind of relentless.

And I found the romance itself just completely unbelievable. We know nothing of Zafira other than she is the Hunter, she bears a lot of guilt and grief, and she's unsure of herself. She thinks numerous times about who she will be, what her purpose will be, if she succeeds in finding the Jarawat and returning magic to the kingdom, because she won't need to be the Hunter anymore. That's pretty much all there is to her. Nasir is constantly accompanied by guilt and misery. I really do not see why they both fall for each other. They're just not fully rounded characters to me, which makes it hard to believe the romance, because what exactly are they attracted to?

Why'd I keep reading then? Because it always felt like something would happen. You always felt like you were on the cusp of something. Plus it's a quest story, and things happen on quests! So I kept reading, honestly anticipating something happening any time now, but it just never really did.

The last 80% of the book though got really, really interesting! We got the real proper action, we got twists and discoveries, we got danger and cliff hangers, and it was really pretty bloody awesome! So much so that I was all for getting the sequel, because that ending!! Where will things go next? It was just so exciting!

But then I read a review on Goodreads of the sequel, We Find the Stars, that says it's pretty much more introspection for a lot of the book, and warns it's just more of the same. And honestly, I don't want more of the same. I'm done with the introspection. So it was really quite disappointing overall, and I doubt I will be picking up the sequel. But others have loved We Hunt the Flame, so do read some other reviews before deciding whether or not you'll read it.

Thank you to Macmillan Children's Books via NetGalley for the eProof.

--
If you enjoyed this post, please consider following / supporting me:
Bloglovin' | Twitter | Goodreads | StoryGraph | Ko-Fi

0 comments:

Post a comment