We Hunt the Flame

“We hunt the flame, the light in the darkness, the good this world deserves.”

Zafira, known as the Hunter to her people, has long been disguising herself as a man and venturing into the cursed forest of Arz to help feed her people. Nasir is the Prince of Death and has long been killing those foolish enough to betray his father, the king. They are legends in the world of Arawiya, despite their reluctance.

Arawiya is being further engulfed in shadow by the day: the Arz grows closer to the city and wars are simmering on every front. When a mysterious witch appears to Zafira with a way to possibly save her people from these dangers, she goes on an adventure to uncover a lost artifact that can restore magic to her world. Meanwhile, Nasir is sent on the same mission, to bring this artifact to his king. When their paths intertwine, they must decide whether to fight each other or to fight the darkness swallowing their country.

This is the release I’ve been hearing about all season, so I was highly anticipating it. I was worried, after the reviews began to come out so mixed, that it might not live up to the hype or my expectations. Did it? Not completely. But I didn’t need to worry either. There were ups and downs for me, but ultimately I enjoyed this diamond in the rough.

We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal wasn’t what I expected it to be, but that wasn’t a wholly bad thing. Specifically, the best part of this book is the incredibly rich and unique world that the characters tell their story in. Arawiya is equal parts lush and harsh, darkness creeping around every corner. Faizal has a gift for rendering settings around the reader as if they are tangible illusions the reader can hear, see, and touch. More of an accomplishment, We Hunt the Flame benefits from a huge and layered world without the weight of information being dumped on the reader at all times. It’s an impressive line to walk.

We Hunt the Flame does something different than a lot of fantasy books, which is to look at an Arabic-inspired world without demonizing or romanticizing the world itself. Making it a fantasy? Sure, but the heart and flavor of Arawiya feel authentic and vivid. It is home to romance and darkness, beauty and flaws, and some of the most hauntingly beautiful descriptions of a fantasy world I’ve read this year.

Zafira and Nasir, the main characters of this book, were interesting and compelling traveling companions. I liked that the author allowed her characters to go through major changes throughout the novel, developing along with their circumstances. Their enemies-to-lovers romance was a deliciously slow burn and throughout every obstacle placed in front of them I wanted them to succeed. I rooted for them to achieve the life they wanted, a better life full of peace, enough to eat, and magic.

The scaffold of the story is a familiar one to YA fantasy, which is probably my only…complaint isn’t the right word, but it’s the one thing I struggled with. The plot machinery itself is predictable, even while parts of it are still very enjoyable. I meandered through this book’s story like our characters meander through the forest, wondering when and where they might see light again. Some moments could’ve held more of a punch, had they not stayed to such traditional paths. I also think that this book could have been a little shorter and it might have benefited the pace.

What stood out most of all through this adventure though was the author’s passion, love, and intent for this story. This debut novel is eager and enthusiastic, dark and hypnotic, mesmerizing and romantic. I found more good things than bad in my journey through the dark and I look forward to seeing what else Faizal writes for us in the future.

“Together, we will raise the dunes from the earth, and rain death from the sky. Together, we are capable of anything.”