Marly B from our Teen Advisory Corps reviewed We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal. One of this summers buzzy titles heres whta Marly had to say.
The only person who has ever been able to navigate the Arz is Zafira. Not only does she return from the magical forest, she returns with food and animal skins. Zafira has been feeding the villages closest to the Arz for years, becoming a hero to the locals and a legend beyond that, known widely as the Hunter. When returning from a successful hunt one day, she is stopped by a mystical witch who slips a letter into her bag. The letter invites her to help save all of Arawiya by venturing into the island of Sharr, known for being used as a prison and the last place besides the Arz that still holds magic. She is sent to retrieve the Jawarat, a book that will prevent the Arz from consuming Arawiya and return magic to the five caliphates. However, she quickly realizes that she isn’t alone on the island, and some of the people she shares the ground with aren’t unfamiliar with taking lives.
We Hunt the Flame is Hafsah Faizal’s debut novel, and there’s not a lot to complain about! The setting, characters, pacing and plot were all very well written.
We Hunt the Flame is a fantasy book based off of ancient Arabia. It adds elements I haven’t seen in many fantasy books before and makes it stand out against others. I personally enjoyed the incorporation of turbans into common garb and use of sandy settings, for no other reasons other than it was a nice change of scenery for a fantasy novel. The setup of the caliphates was also a nice bit of variety that I appreciated.
This book also does a nice job of having characters with different personalities. Despite introducing tons of characters at the same time they were easy to keep track of because of how varied their traits were. They were described very consistently which was great for remembrance, but also helped to really be able to know and understand them. The only complaint I have in this area is Kifah. She didn’t seem distinct from the other characters, and I can’t remember anything important she did to advance the plot. I don’t think the book would have changed all that much if she wasn’t written into it.
The story itself moved at a reasonable pace. A large part of the book is traveling and camping out, and Faizal did a great job of keeping even mundane things readable. The characters were well written so even when nothing was happening it was entertaining. The interactions between the characters and learning more about the magic system and history of Arawiya was interesting.
I actually didn’t mind the romantic subplot in this book, which shouldn’t be taken lightly because most of the time I would rather eat nails than subject myself to that sort of torture (that might be slightly dramatic but only slightly). First off, the relationship developed fairly naturally. Insta-love was avoided and the characters stayed true to how they were written even as they became more attached. Faizal also avoided pushing the main plot of the story to the side in favor of the romance. She didn’t slow down the plot to let the relationship develop and didn’t add in pointless scenes to progress the relationship. Basically, the romantic subplot was actually subplot and didn’t hinder the story which I don’t usually see in fantasy or YA. I don’t think I’ve read a book that does romantic subplot as well as We Hunt the Flame does.
We Hunt the Flame is a pretty darn good book, I do have a couple minor complaints though. Faizal describes a plethora of magical creatures throughout the novel, but there were only three creatures I can remember the characters interacting with, and only one of those we heard of more than once. Faizal did an amazing job of creating interesting creatures, I just wish I was introduced to more of them.
The magic in the book caused some issues for me. For a book centered around magic, we don’t actually see it used a whole lot. I would accept that if there was an explanation on why. Are some things harder to do than others? Is there time limits between uses? Does it sap energy from the user? More clear ideas of the limits of magic would have been nice. It was hard to be impressed with the idea of limitless magic when there really wasn’t any idea of what magic with limits would be like.
I would give We Hunt the Flame a 3.75/5. I don’t think I want to read the second book, but I would definitely read another book by Hafsah Faizal. Her writing style is already fantastic and I can only imagine it will get better in her future books.