We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal
From Goodreads: 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.
Thanks so much to Macmillan for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I didn’t think I was going to snag a review copy of We Hunt the Flame as the hype for this book is HUGE right now, so I’m ecstatic at the chance to review it before it officially gets released in the UK next month.
First of all, I think I have to talk about the gorgeous descriptions in this book. Although I struggled with some of the world-building [more on that later] I did always love the beautiful one-liners and the brilliant way Hafsah sets the scene. It’s very poetic in places without being flowery, which is a perfect balance to have, in my opinion. My favourite lines were probably when she described the desert during different times of the day, although most of the lines in general were just outright gorgeous. The opening chapters reminded me a little of Jay Kristoff and his penchant for creating mirroring scenes, like when he ends one scene with a line and picks up the next one with something that riffs off it. The first two chapters, where we’re introduced to Zafira and then Nasir, are a bit like that. They’re not a perfect mirroring or anything like that, and I don’t think they’re intended to be, but I loved how the opening lines for each chapter so carefully reflected each other. It was not only a great way to set the scene but a brilliant way to distinguish the two characters apart in the very first line we get from both of them.
In terms of the characters, I thought both POV characters had very strong voices. There was never a moment where I was confused who might be speaking, except maybe later where it was no longer just alternative chapters but sometimes alternative scenes too. That was a bit too much stop and change for me. However, earlier on, it was very clear whose head I was in and how their thought patterns and actions were different from one another. I also really liked both Zafira and Nasir. Their motives were deliciously complex and there was so much to unpack with both of them as the book progressed. In general, I think I preferred Zafira’s chapters, just because I found her a bit more decisive, a bit more optimistic. Nasir is kinda troubled and has a lot of interesting backstory though, which I enjoyed delving into. I’m curious to see where his character arc is headed throughout the series.
The secondary characters were a bit harder to appreciate, personally. I did really like Deen, and Altair was one of my favourite characters, but a few weeks on from finishing the book, I’m finding it difficult to remember some of the other characters. I also found it strange how and when they appear, although again, I think this is possibly my own confusion about the worldbuilding which fed into my reading of the novel.
So yes, let’s get into that discussion on worldbuilding. Hafsah has created an incredible world, and it’s very imaginative. However, there was a lot of worldbuilding terminology that I wasn’t familiar with and the ARC I got didn’t include a glossary. There is one up on goodreads, as I discovered once I’d finished the book and went to review it, and I imagine finished copies of the book will include a helpful list of terms, but without one I did struggle a lot. I’m also, as I have said in previous reviews of novels like Smoke in the Sun, not particularly good at remembering unfamiliar names. I can just about manage some fantasy names in SJM or Bardugo novels, however, I usually struggle when there’s a few on the page, and unfortunately there were a few characters introduced around the same time as one another. Obviously, this is a very personal issue I had with the book, and I am sure other people won’t have the same problem with it at all, but I felt like I had to include it in my review so I could hopefully explain why I struggled to get through this novel very quickly. As much as I loved the creativity of the worldbuilding, and especially its Arabic influences, it isn’t something I have much familiarity with, and I initially spent a lot of time googling terms rather than reading, which slowed me down a lot. Eventually, I just gave up, but it meant there were a few times where I didn’t have much of a clue who characters were or what was going on. As I said, this wasn’t the book’s problem, it was absolutely my own issue. At some point I am planning to do a reread using the glossary supplied on Goodreads to see if it makes a difference to my enjoyment and understanding of the book.
Part of the reason it took me so long though was also that the pacing was a little slow for me. The first portion of the novel moves quickly, and I loved seeing the set up for the rest of the narrative. However, the middle was a bit sluggish in my opinion and I ended up having to sometimes push to keep turning pages. And then, towards the end, it picked up again. Obviously, again there will be some people out there who won’t mind the middle being slow, but I personally could have done with a little more plot structure or some kind of meaty sub-plot outside of romance to keep me occupied in the middle. However, I will say that the tension was still pretty high and wondering what might happen with Nasir and his storyline was what motivated me to push through some of the slower portions of the book, so it wasn’t too much of an issue.
Overall, I’m giving We Hunt the Flame an 8/10 stars. I thought the character development and voices were amazing, and I put so many tabs in my copy of the book so I could come back to all the beautiful lines of prose. I wasn’t too fussed about most of the secondary characters, and I struggled a bit with the worldbuilding and pacing, even though I can see that the book is really clever and imaginary. I’m excited to see where the rest of the series will take us 😀
We Hunt the Flame is available to purchase in the UK on August 8th.
Has anyone else read this book already or plans to? What do you all think of it? Let me know in the comment section down below ❤