Title: We Hunt the Flame
Author: Hafsah Faizal
Series: Sands of Arawiya, #1
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Release Date: May 14th 2019
Hafsah Faizal’s debut We Hunt the Flame is a sweeping Arab-inspired fantasy that gets better with each page turned. In order to keep her people from starving Zafira bint Iskandar has disguised herself as the Hunter, the only person able to enter the evil forest known as the Arz without being driven to madness. In Arawiya, all caliphates have been touched by the Arz, one of the many aftereffects of the land being robbed of magic years ago. When Zafira is approached by the enigmatic Silver Witch, she is offered the opportunity to rid the world of the Arz for good and restore magic. But in order to do so, she must journey to the island of Sharr, one masked in mystery. Unbeknownst to her, she isn’t the only one being sent to Sharr. The sultan has sent his own son, known as the Prince of Death, tasked with retrieving the book that promises to undo the curse laid upon the land and kill the famed Hunter. In order to survive the island, strangers must form unlikely alliances, but their distrust of one another may be their undoing.
Faizal’s writing is nothing short of brilliant. Her descriptions are lush and often lyrical. She has a knack for capturing every dark and eerie backdrop. The Arz slowly creeps upon the land and any who dares enter unwillingly surrenders their sanity. Beyond the Arz is the Barensea, which is home to ferocious creatures waiting to devour wayward travelers. But it is the Sharr that completely captivated me as a reader. The island was once a prison, but has been cut off from the land of the living since the disappearance of magic. Monsters await in the shadows and the very island itself craves bloodshed.
We Hunt the Flame‘s characters are just as captivating as its setting. Zafira has made herself into a hunter, the very thing her people rely on in order to survive. She’s been plagued by her father’s death, one she feels responsible for. Being the Hunter has become her only purpose and she isn’t sure who she would be without it. Nasir is known throughout Arawiya as the Prince of Death, a lethal weapon Sultan Ghameq wields across the lands. But in truth Nasir has been molded by the cruelty of his father, forced to become a monster in order to survive. But still, there is a flicker of humanity in Nasir that refuses to snuffed out, not matter how much he wants it to. Altair is a renown general, but it is his humor that really leaps off the page. His contentious relationship with Nasir is equal parts enjoyable and insightful when it comes to both characters.
Kifah and Benyamin are the final characters introduced in the novel. The former a female warrior, independent and deadly, and I can’t wait to learn more about her in the next novel. Benyamin is very much a mystery, his knowledge far exceeds any of the others and there are times when you’re not quite sure what his true motivates are. I do wish we had gotten a chance to spend more time with these two characters and felt that certain dynamics would have felt more rewarding if we had been introduced to them earlier. There were also times where it felt like certain relationships went from contentious to something else a little too rapidly. It almost felt like the novel left out key interactions which would have made the evolution of these relationships feel more consistent.
Hafsah Faizal’s debut is a little slow getting started, but once it sank its claws into me, I could not stop reading. If you like fantasy books full of dark foes and equally dark characters, We Hunt the Flame needs to be on your TBR.
★ ★ ★ ★