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“People lived because she killed. People died because he lived…” The perfect tagline for one of the most exciting reads to grace our shelves the summer of 2019. I must say that I absolutely loved this book and couldn’t have chosen a better first book review than We Hunt the Flame. Now, I know this review is a bit late, and most of you have already experienced this great read, but I honestly felt that it was too good to pass up on the opportunity to gush all over it. It was just that good. Besides, part deux to the novel will be coming soon, and there’s bound to be one person who hasn’t read it yet and wanted to see what’s it all about before the new release. So, let’s get to it, shall we?
First, a quick synopsis of what the book is all about:
We Hunt the Flame is a coming of age story, written in an Arabian-esque setting, that highlights the values of loyalty, friendship, love, and bravery, with a flair for assassins, mages, and mythical creatures. You follow your heroine, Zafira, and her gang of misfits, as they travel across the Sharr: a desert whose shadows talk to you, and whose sands moan for a taste of blood. The gang’s mission? Release the magic from the Sharr that once ran through Arawiya, by any means necessary. Will they all complete the mission ahead of them and make it out alive? And if they do, will they release all the personal demons from their lives just as they released the magic from the sands of Sharr? Only time will tell, and there’s only one way to find the answer, in this epic fantasy thriller.
Let me just tell you that this book gives you everything! You get action, murder, blood, magic, dysfunctional families, heated passion- and that’s just to name a portion of the awesomeness that you’re yet to unfold. It’s honestly the total package.
Now… on to the review!
The Language and Setting:
One thing I noticed right away is that Hafsah Faizal has an effortless way of introducing the Arabic language to the reader by placing certain words in the text and providing translation without taking away from the flow of the storyline. There’s a great sense of Arabic pride, and it can be felt with every page turned. I felt immersed and connected to the culture, and the vivid descriptions of the setting allowed me to visualize the world Hafsah created in great detail in my mind as I read the text. It was enthralling!
Give Me All the Action:
Another noteworthy attribute of the book is the many “Oh wooooow” moments that you’ll stumble across whilst plummeting deeper into the storyline. I love a good plot twist in my books, and unfortunately, I’m known to be able to sniff out when one’s about to happen. However, with this book, I kept getting hit with one jaw-dropping shocker after another, and I just wasn’t prepared for all that excitement. I was literally exclaiming out loud, “No ********* way” almost every chapter.
Those twists and turns transformed the words into live-action, and before you knew it, you’re turning the page shaking… fiending for more. Many books can create this effect to some degree, but I can honestly say that WHtF was able to achieve this at an advanced level, causing me to freak out and start skimming through paragraphs to get to the big reveals. For this, I must thank you Hafsah; I’m forever grateful for the ride.
As you progress through the story, so does the lives of the characters- constantly evolving as each chapter unfurls. Every character has a layer that is shed page after page until you reach the end when each one has tapped into his or her full potential. You watch them blossom right before your eyes, and it’s easy to become attached to each of their stories… you want to see them win…you need them to succeed. Hafsah brilliantly stitched real-life struggles such as rejection, personal loss, betrayal, unrequited love, and major family issues together with all the majesty and intrigue of a great fantasy novel, and the results were breathtaking. 😊
Key Figures and Plot:
The Hunter of Demenhur:
The Arz, a dark forest that emerged after the Six Sisters disappeared along with all the Magic of Arawiya, consumes any and everything that crosses its path. No one ever returned if and once they ventured into the forest. No one, except The Hunter. The Hunter never showed his face, He only ventured into the Arz to hunt and came out with enough food to feed the village and to create enough supplies to ensure the caliphate, Demenhur, could still produce some income through trade. The Hunter was revered by all, but his identity was only truly known by those closest to him.
Oh, wait… what’s that?
He’s not a he… but… he’s a… a… she?!
You read correctly! The Hunter was indeed not a man at all, but a woman, and her name was Zafira. And it was imperative that Zafira concealed her true identity as a woman and instead hide behind that of a man’s.
Why? You ask?
Well, since the Six Sisters disappeared from Arawiya, women were viewed as a problem, a plague, even, in her home caliphate, Demenhur. Zafira knew that no matter how much good she did for her village, her calipher would only see it as some form of indecency and that she would be punished, just as she had seen many women before her be punished if they didn’t behave as a woman should: head down and silent. So, Zafira did what she felt was best to make sure everyone was protected. She hid the fact that she was a woman so that she could go to the Arz and hunt freely as a man, ensuring her home would not perish.
Day in and day out, Zafira risked her life by journeying into the Arz. But the real reason was one she didn’t want to admit to anyone, not even herself: that she felt the most alive when she was in the Arz. Whenever she was in the forest, she felt connected with some distant power she possessed… one that she didn’t quite understand but that she felt with her entire being. Through the concealment as the Hunter, Zafira was able to freely be herself. Most days, she couldn’t fathom being anything more than “him”, but on other days, that tug deep down inside of her gut reminded Zafira that in order for her life’s true purpose to be unveiled, she must first shed her false identity and embrace her authentic one.
When Zafira was a child, she was told stories about the magic that once ran through Arawiya. But unlike everyone else who heard the stories, Zafira knew that all the tales were once real, and not just some silly fantasies that you told children before they went to bed. She knew that Arawiya and her people could not survive without the magic; that the Arz would only continue to creep and consume all that lies in its wake with its absence. She also knew, somehow, that she was the only person who could bring the magic back.
Knowing was one thing, but getting it done was another. With the magic being gone for generations, she had no idea where to start or even how to begin such a daunting mission. The idea was unfathomable, unattainable.
Well, that was the case until a mysterious woman in silver abruptly materialized in front of Zafira one day, offering her help on a mission that was presented to Zafira to complete. The mission: Journey to the Sharr, an abandoned magical prison that lies dormant in the middle of Arawiya, to release the magic that has been trapped in its sands since the disappearance of the Six Sisters.
This mission proved that the stars were finally aligning for Zafira, and she knew that for her to fully understand who she is, and who’s she’s to become, she must venture to the Sharr, where death was almost a certainty.
Let’s just take a moment to focus on the lady in charge here. Zafira’s everything you would want in a strong, female lead: Courageous, independent, loyal; hard but soft, great sense of humor yet very reserved.
What I adored about Zafira is that she reminded me of a friend that every girl has had: the ominous friend that has a matching backstory to her elusive persona. The friend who you understand deeply, so her introverted habits don’t make you feel uneasy. The friend that you love so much more because you’re able to see her gentle nature beneath her hard exterior. That it’s only a defense mechanism for the pain she tries to hide every day. We all know that girl… and Zafira is her. Your weirdo best friend with the biggest heart.
The Prince of Death
The Hashashins were once an admired brotherhood. They once killed with honor and were welcomed with the same amount of respect as they had shown to their victims. But those days of honorable kills were over, leaving behind only fear, despair, and treasonous murder.
The Sultan over the five caliphates of Arawiya had made sure that his son, Prince Nasir, was the deadliest assassin of all, and that he did his bidding with zero questions asked. Murder after murder, Nasir took out anyone who dared stand in the way of his Father. He didn’t care what they did, or if they were innocent or not, if his Father demanded them dead, so be it.
The word got back to the Sultan that there was a hunter in Demenhur who could venture into the Arz and return unharmed. This being an incredible feat, the Sultan knew there had to be something special about this “man” and demanded his son go retrieve him and bring him back to Sultan’s Keep. This hunter’s ability to withstand the Arz would prove to be an invaluable source for ensuring the Sultan retrieved the ultimate powers he wished to possess.
Nasir’s journey to finding The Hunter led him to journey to the Sharr, himself, and while there he discovered more truths than he ever imagined could be possible.
Now… Let’s dig deeper into the world of the Prince of Death, shall we?
Nasir’s father, Ghameq, made sure Nasir’s childhood was one that was full of pain and intense training; one that was absent of any immaturity or affection. Nasir spent all his time training to become the deadliest hashashin that Arawiya has ever known, and there would be no room to behave like a child or to receive love like one for that matter.
Nasir often dreamed of the days when his Mother’s love acted as a shield against his Father’s fierceness, but when she vanished from his life one day, leaving him vulnerable to the Sultan’s cold touch, tenderness would only become a distant memory- his reality replaced with only harshness and hate.
Nasir’s character was one that I felt, in the end, I was the most attached to. It was easy to see the hate in him, but when you learned all that he had went through, the hate became a necessary evil. My heart cried out to him so many times while reading this, and I just wanted to put my arms through the pages and hug him like he deserved to be hugged. To love him like he deserved to be loved. Time after time again, Nasir was afflicted with the most torture and it pained me to see his character endure so much agony. Hafsah did an incredible job of writing his story so that even though he wasn’t able to be loved in his world of Arawiya as he should have been, we were able to give him the love he deserved here in our world, as we followed him through his journey.
We love you Prince of Death!!!! We love you!!!!
Just One Problem:
Now that I’ve bragged on and on about how great the book is, I must give you at least one thing I found a little bit distracting. The use of the word “undulate” (in all its tenses and forms) was very redundant. I don’t know about you guys, but a heavily repeated word in a book, story or whatever medium, is a teensy-weensy pet peeve of mine. Now, don’t get me wrong, dabbling in writing myself, I’m all too familiar with the “no other word fits” writers’ block, and I am very much guilty of partaking in some redundancy myself.
** Side Note: I just revealed that I am indeed a hypocrite to (hopefully) 100s of people across the nets. But you guys are my new friends, and I want to be candid… so let’s continue. **
Ok… where was I?
Right! Word redundancy…
When you are being “word redundant” in your writing, you’re usually very much aware that you are utilizing the word a bit too much. You try to find ways around it, but somehow you just can’t seem to find a word that does the sentence as much justice. So, you continue to use it, repeatedly. Well, that’s exactly what happened here. Undulate was the “word of the day” in this work, but again, it only gave me a small cringe. Nothing that would stop me from reading We Hunt the Flame repeatedly over the next few years.
There we have it…
An almost perfect book that’s full of all the makings of an action-packed, love-torn, mystical and spellbinding Blockbuster. There’s everything to love and virtually nothing to hate about this book. Hafsah left us completely in love with her zumra (if you haven’t read it, read it! She’ll fill you in on what that means), and she left us licking our lips, parched as if in the Sharr ourselves, desperate for a refreshing drop of what’s to happen next.
Don’t forget to comment if you loved this book as much I did. Or if you didn’t, tell us all why. This is an open forum of opinions, so please don’t be shy!
If you haven’t read it yet and need a copy? No worries I got you covered…. We Hunt the Flame just click the link 🙂