We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal
Series: Sands of Arawiya #1
Published May 14th 2019 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Age Range: Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy, Romance
People lived because she killed. People died because he lived.
Zafira is the Hunter, disguising herself as a man when she braves the cursed forest of the Arz to feed her people. Nasir is the Prince of Death, assassinating those foolish enough to defy his autocratic father, the sultan. If Zafira was exposed as a girl, all of her achievements would be rejected; if Nasir displayed his compassion, his father would punish him in the most brutal of ways. Both Zafira and Nasir are legends in the kingdom of Arawiya–but neither wants to be.
War is brewing, and the Arz sweeps closer with each passing day, engulfing the land in shadow. When Zafira embarks on a quest to uncover a lost artifact that can restore magic to her suffering world and stop the Arz, Nasir is sent by the sultan on a similar mission: retrieve the artifact and kill the Hunter. But an ancient evil stirs as their journey unfolds–and the prize they seek may pose a threat greater than either can imagine.
“Be as victorious as the name I have given you, and bring the desert to its knees.”
Hafsah Faizal’s lush writing style was full of beautiful descriptions that aided me in visualizing the world, characters, and details. The Arabic representation and its cultural aspects are embedded into the book thus creating a diverse and unique setting.
All the characters have important roles to play in the grand scheme of things. Each person in the group on this journey, to find magic once again and stop the looming Arz, are there for their own motives. Despite the severity and the dangers of the desert, the group maintained a great deal of introspection and witty dialogues.
Living in a world where women were looked down upon, Zafira hides her true self behind a cloak. As the only person who could freely enter and return from the Arz, her ability attracted questions. She embarked on the journey to bring back the magic that she had only heard about but never lived with. Independent and skilled at hunting, Zafira showed everyone that she isn’t a fragile woman, she can take care of herself.
Nasir wasn’t likable at the beginning since he was always doing his father’s bidding. Whenever he’s introspecting, it’s clear that he isn’t all that ruthless or jaded. However, he just couldn’t do anything about it. There were glimpses of him wanting more in life than whatever he was doing now. He may frequently argue with Altair but is fiercely protective.
The romance wasn’t rushed. Amidst the lingering gazes, teasing conversations and insane tension between Nasir and Zafira is the enemies-to-lovers trope. Hafsah Faizal realistically developed their romance by making it a slow burn.
“You are the compass in the storm, the guide in the dark. You will always find your way, Zafira bint Iskandar.”
One thing I really appreciated was the counter perspectives the characters each brought into conversations. For instance, is love considered a strength or weakness, and is the ability to remember a curse or blessing? Things like that added another level of complexity as their thoughts are developed from events that they had experienced throughout their lives.
The girl power in We Hunt the Flame is amazing. Although most of the world believed that women couldn’t amount to anything, the women have faith in one another. All the women are resilient in their own ways: Zafira for adventuring out into the unknown, Kiran fighting to prove everyone wrong, Yasmine for loving fiercely, and Lana who had been the one nursing their sick mother.
before venturing below for we free the stars, know that there’s spoiler for book one! do read book two before that~
We Free the Stars by Hafsah Faizal
Series: Sands of Arawiya #2
Published January 19th 2021 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Age Range: Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy, Romance
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.
Now that Zafira’s life is bonded with the Jawarat, she questions who she is when the Arz disappeared and the world no longer requires a huntress. Purposeless, what should Zafira do now? Unfortunately, her own emotions are swayed by what the Jawarat wants which was heavily influenced by what it felt from the Lion before.
“I understand in some way,” she corrected. “To have words collect on your tongue, but feel as if they aren’t worth voicing. To feel as if no one wants to listen.”
Feeling guilty about not saving Altair and leaving him in the hands of the Lion, Nasir struggles to decide what to do next. At the same time, he has a lot of mixed feelings about his father, the Sultan. Nasir didn’t know how to reconcile with those feelings when he returned to the palace.
Altair, who was captured by the Lion, felt abandoned after the rest didn’t come after him immediately. Readers find out more about him as the story progresses. His perspective wasn’t one that I expected in book two but myself really enjoying his thought processes while he was captured by the Lion.
The pining between Zafira and Nasir was unbearable. Them being together should have been easy but it just isn’t. With Nasir as the heir to the throne, Zafira’s worried about whether she’s capable enough to be calipha. To Nasir, he thinks Zafira doesn’t want to be tied down. The miscommunication was painful but I’m in love.
Quotes about the romance:
1. “I can get on my knees for you, fair gazelle,” he whispered against her cheek, “if that is what you wish.”
2. “I don’t know him the way you do, but I was there. I saw how he looks at you. If he’s the darkness, then you’re his moon, and the moon wasn’t made to be caged. It’s a beacon to behold, a relic to revere. To be loved.”
3. “Why do you cry?” Zafira whispered. Roohi, roohi, roohi. He stitched her soul anew. “Because my heart cannot contain it.”
4. “Every color that makes you.”
Fast-paced and entertaining, I easily finished We Free the Stars. The found family is sweet. Zafira, Nasir, Altair, and Kifah do often mention how lovely it was to know one another. They worked well together and would do anything for one another. Something was always happening and my beloved characters could never take a break. When they do, it’s either after a harrowing incident or they were healing and needed sleep.
“We’re a zumra. We hunted the flame together, found the light in the darkness, but we were far from done, laa? Now we unleash it. We free the stars, shatter the darkness holding us captive, and return the world to the splendor it once was.”
We Free the Stars has a lush world and detailed development of the characters. The romance was perfection and I liked how everyone got their own endings.