We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal. I have so much to say for this book but before that, I am going to ask you to remember the times when you came across a book that checked all the boxes but was still not satisfying enough.
A huntress, an assassin and a sassy sidekick embark on a journey to a dilapidated and cursed island to retrieve an object that will save Arawiya and bring magic back to its lands. But they must bear the courage to face horrific demons, age-old stories, secrets that will test their belief in themselves and an attraction so fierce that it will consume them.
We Hunt the Flame does everything right. The usual tropes (enemies to lovers, brooding prince, charming sidekick, witches, and curses) in YA fantasy is perfectly measured and executed, there’s POC representation, lot of powerful dialogues that will strike the right chord, especially with a huntress living as a man because the society defines what a woman can or cannot do and a misunderstood prince who has to serve his King but is also drawn towards doing the right thing.
Now, for the terrible things this book did to me, lack of intensity is the first thing I noticed. The characters were casual and immersed in self-discovery despite the challenges in front of them. The dialogues drift more towards sassy comebacks and discussions pertaining to irrelevant matters. There are some revelations towards the end of the story but by then I was way past caring, especially because of the pace that was excruciatingly slow and character growth the confused me with every page I turned. Even with that cliffhanger, I couldn’t decide if I actually wanted to read what comes next.
Inspired by tales from the old Arabia, We Hunt the Flame is a fantasy that has been inspired by a lot of stories. It introduces a POC representation and builds a world that is very familiar. The language separates it from mainstream fantasy but also complicates matters. The writing, however, eludes something mischievous, suspenseful and mystical. It just needed a lot of refinement.
Blurb (as on 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.
*Thank you PanMacmillan India for a copy of the book. All opinions are my own*