the candle and the flame – nafiza azad | review

The Candle and the Flame by Nafiza Azad

Published May 14th 2019 by Scholastic
Age Range: Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy, Romance
Representation:  Indian, Pakistani, and Arab


Rating: 4 out of 5.


Fatima lives in the city of Noor, a thriving stop along the Silk Road. There the music of myriad languages fills the air, and people of all faiths weave their lives together. However, the city bears scars of its recent past, when the chaotic tribe of Shayateen djinn slaughtered its entire population — except for Fatima and two other humans. Now ruled by a new maharajah, Noor is protected from the Shayateen by the Ifrit, djinn of order and reason, and by their commander, Zulfikar.

But when one of the most potent of the Ifrit dies, Fatima is changed in ways she cannot fathom, ways that scare even those who love her. Oud in hand, Fatima is drawn into the intrigues of the maharajah and his sister, the affairs of Zulfikar and the djinn, and the dangers of a magical battlefield.

Nafiza Azad weaves an immersive tale of magic and the importance of names; fiercely independent women; and, perhaps most importantly, the work for harmony within a city of a thousand cultures and cadences. 


trigger and content warnings:

While I had a rocky start with The Candle and the Flame, the writing itself was beautiful and descriptive especially with the incorporation of multiple languages (Arabic, Hindu, Punjabi). It augmented the reading experience. The glossary provided at the end of the book is for readers who aren’t familiar with the languages which I found helped me a lot.

Fatima Ghazala was fearless. Although she felt a little distant, I came to like her. Fiercely protective of her friends and sister, she wouldn’t stop fighting if they came in danger. Bhavya could have been portrayed as the bratty, entitled princess but Nafiza Azad didn’t take that route at all. All Bhavya wanted was to path her own way and hold destiny in her own hands.

“The desert has been a balm to all her hurts. This place with its emptiness and the promise of heat glimmering underneath the sand.”

The city of Noor came alive with multiple languages, traditions, and cultures. Nafiza Azad consistency showed the disparity between the wealthy and the poor, not just in terms of money but in happiness and way of life. In this city, the humans share the land with the magical beings but this fragile peace will not last long. Something brews and war is in the distant future.

In The Candle and the Flame, there’s the theme of female empowerment. Regardless of their status in society, all the women were incredibly badass. They refused to back down in the face of misogyny and discrimination. They were willing to do things others would never.

Unfortunately, despite loving the lush landscape and the beautiful writing, there wasn’t a huge climax. I was more interested in the character developments and the romance than the plot. Zulfikar and Fatima Ghazala’s relationship ramped up a little fast but I still enjoyed them growing closer together.

Overall, the gorgeous and lyrical prose in The Candle and the Flame highlighted the amazing world-building and expansive multicultural universe. Mixed in with supernatural beings like the Djinn, the place becomes more magical and alluring.

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