“We Hunt the Flame” by Hafsah Faizal – Khinsa Shah

SPOILER ALERT! Set in an Arabian-inspired setting, We Hunt the Flame tells the tale of Zafira and Nasir, and what happens when their lives intertwine. Seventeen-year-old Zafira bint Iskander ventures through the Arz, cursed forest of the kingdom of Arawiya, to hunt animals and bring home food for her people. She does so using a male persona, “The Hunter”. If she is revealed to be a female, all of her accomplishments will be turned against her. Nasir Ghameq is the crown prince of the Arawiya, better known as the “Prince of Death”. His father’s personal assassin, he murders those who oppose the Sultan. If Nasir fails to follow his father’s orders, the people around him will suffer. When Zafira is offered the opportunity to restore magic back to their land by retrieving a long lost artifact, Nasir is ordered to follow her to the prize and kill “The Hunter”. On their journey they will find a greater evil stirring, and a risk that comes with finding their reward.

(Once again, SPOILER ALERT! I don’t reveal too much information but still BEWARE.)

Y’all, this book was something else. But first, can we take a moment to appreciate Hafsah Faizal. I feel like it’s hard for Muslim authors to get recognition in some areas of literature, including Young Adult. It’s especially hard in the science-fiction/fantasy genre, when everyone hypes up Cassandra Clare’ shadowhunter books, and Sarah J. Mass’s A Court of Thorns and Roses (not hating on them, I love shadowhunters and haven’t read ACOTR yet. Just trying to make a point). Not to mention the amount of racism and Islamophobia she must receive. I really respect her for keeping her burka on through the hate.

OK now to the book. The storyline is not unlike many other fantasy tales, but Faizal really put her own spin on it. First of all: the setting. It kind of gave me Aladdin vibes, what with it being an ancient Arabian kingdom with magic. However, that magic was drained with the downfall of the six sisters, and left a forest of darkness that no regular mortal could venture through. Which I thought was pretty cool. I also can’t help but adore all of the characters. Zafira and her love for her people, her family, and her friends. Nasir, the poor abused prince turned assassin, who is forced to suppress his compassion for the lives of the people around him. Altair, the secret half-brother of Nasir, who knows more than he lets on, and still sticks around no matter what. Benyamin, who ventures to help on the quest with the hope of redemption for his actions. Kifah, who hopes to bring magic back to the land to spite her father. The book also tackles real-world issues: the oppression of women, child abuse, abuse of power, grief and guilt, and so much more. Also the underlying power of LOVE. I love how Faizal didn’t make it “oh love is the answer to the world’s problem”. Instead she showed that life without love is just an existence, and I think that’s beautiful. Now the SHIPS. May I just say that I knew Zafira and Nasir were meant for each from the BEGINNING. Before opening the freaking pages I knew. And it makes sense too! Like Zafira’s affinity is being able to know how to trek through the darkness, and Nasir’s affinity IS the darkness. And then Nasir and Altair’s lowkey bromance (even before we found out they were brothers) is so relatable, except it’s extremely dramatized. Also, I know Altair is such a flirt and that he has a crush on Kifah (it’s so obvious that they like each other), I can’t help but simp for the guy. He’s charming, kind, compassionate, intelligent, and I can go on and on. He reminds me of Will Herondale, except Nasir has Will’s angsty demeanor, and Altair does not disrespect women. I would simp for Nasir, but Zafira and Nasir are my new OTP.

Overall, I loved this book. I can’t believe I have to wait a YEAR for the sequel. Well, it comes out in January, but I feel like I have to wait an eternity. I highly recommend this book if you like fantasy, and you want something new to read.

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