Title: We Free the Stars
Author: Hafsah Faizal
Series: Sands of Arawiya, #2
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**
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.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★