We Free the Stars by Hafsah Faizal

Title: We Free the Stars
Author: Hafsah Faizal
Series: Sands of Arawiya, #2
Pages: 592
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Release Date: January 19th 2021

TW: mentions of physical and emotional abuse by a parent

**Includes spoilers for We Hunt the Flame**

      “The battle on Sharr is over. The dark forest has fallen. Altair may be captive, but Zafira, Nasir, and Kifah are bound for Sultan’s Keep, determined to finish the plan he set in motion: restoring the hearts of the Sisters of Old to the minarets of each caliphate, and finally returning magic to all of Arawiya. But they are low on resources and allies alike, and the kingdom teems with fear of the Lion of the Night’s return.
      As the zumra plots to overthrow the kingdom’s darkest threat, Nasir fights to command the magic in his blood. He must learn to hone his power into a weapon, to wield not only against the Lion but against his father, trapped under the Lion’s control. Zafira battles a very different darkness festering in her through her bond with the Jawarat—a darkness that hums with voices, pushing her to the brink of her sanity and to the edge of a chaos she dare not unleash. In spite of the darkness enclosing ever faster, Nasir and Zafira find themselves falling into a love they can’t stand to lose…but time is running out to achieve their ends, and if order is to be restored, drastic sacrifices will have to be made.
      Lush and striking, hopeful and devastating, We Free the Stars is the masterful conclusion to the Sands of Arawiya duology by New York Times–bestselling author Hafsah Faizal.”

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“He melted into the night, his feet barely touching the ground as he sprinted along the edge. Her heart crammed half a croak into her throat as he leaped at the end, arms spreading, a falcon in flight for the barest of moments before he tumbled onto the next rooftop, silhouetted against the night.”

Hafsah Faizal concludes her duology We Hunt the Flame with We Free the Stars, a chunky sequel with heartstopping action at every turn. At the conclusion of We Free the Stars, Zafira, Huntress of Demenhur, found herself joining forces with unlikely allies to defeat the Lion of the Night and restore magic to Arawiya. But facing off against a foe far more powerful comes at a cost. Forced to leave behind one of their own in order to escape, Zafira, along with Nasir and Kifah race to restore the hearts of Sisters of Old and usher Arawiya into a new era. Meanwhile Altair is held captive by his own father, the Lion of the Night, a revelation that has sent him reeling and which will test the bonds he has formed while on Sharr.

Faizal builds on her universe with this sequel, diving deeper into the world of Arawiya and a story of revenge that’s been brewing for generations. We learn in this sequel that Arawiya’s fate will be shaped by both mortal and immortal beings. The Lion of the Night has dark plans for this world. He is cunning and secretive. The small glimpses we get of his humanity make him an interesting, but still terrifying character. Though restoring magic is Zafira and company’s ultimate goal, we learn just how much magic can be influenced by darkness. The Jawarat, a book that promised a way to restore magic, has its own goals. It has become sentient and has begun to dig its claws into Zafira. It pushes and whispers to her, clouding her judgment.

As much as I love the world building in this duology, it’s the characters who have kept me glued to the pages. Both their personal journeys as well as the shifting dynamics between them. Zafira has gone from hiding who she is to embracing it, but in so doing, she also must confront the darkness inside her, a darkness the Jawarat continues to call to. Nasir was raised by his father to be a cold-blooded killer. He’s done his best to stomp out the empathy his mother once fostered. While on Sharr, he developed an unexpectedly connection to Zafira which made him question his own objectives as his father’s assassin. He also grew closer to Altair, who is later revealed to be his half-brother. The relationships Nasir has forged are changing him and his new purpose pits him against his own father. Zafira and Nasir’s interactions are so delectable. I loved seeing them navigate this connection between them when neither of them are very good at being open with others. Every look they exchanged, every conversation, and every interaction was torturous, but in the best possible way.

Faizal also expands on Altair’s characterization in this sequel. Though he often comes off as frivolous, Altair has been playing the long game, working behind the scenes. I loved seeing a more vulnerable Altair in this one. He’s used his charm to cover up the ways he’s been hurting. He has both loved and hated his brother, resented and craved the attention of his mother. I would have loved to have seen chapters from Kifah’s POV, but still appreciated the bond she forms with the others, Zafira in particular. Kifah’s always wanted to prove her father wrong, but has found another purpose and another family where she least expected it.

We Free the Stars is a daring conclusion to one of the most memorable fantasy series I’ve ever read. I look forward to devouring everything Hafsah Faizal writes and am hoping we might see a spin-off series in the future.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

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