We Hunt the Flame

We Hunt the Flame
Hafsah Faizal
Published date
Macmillan Children's Books

We Hunt the Flame is a debut novel by Hafsah Faizal, the first book in duology Sands of Arawiya. The action takes place in a fantasy world of Arawiya inspired by ancient Arabia. It’s an epic tale of adventure, searching for identity, standing up against injustice and fighting to bring the lost magic back to the troubled world. That said, I was expecting a thrilling and exotic story. Unfortunately, I was a bit disappointed.

Zafira is a fearless girl. Every day she put on a man’s clothes and brave the cursed forest to hunt for food to feed the people from her village. She can’t let anyone know of her secret, because the ruling caliph forbids women to take up any ‘unwomanly’ work. She would be discredited and punished, and all her deeds that inspires so many people would be erased. Everything changes when she is offered a chance of fulfilling a quest to bring magic back. Zafira knows that this is an opportunity she was waiting for the whole life. She embarks on a journey knowing that nothing ever will be the same as it was.

Nasir is a Prince of Death, an assassin on Sultan’s leash. His only purpose is to kill everyone who wronged his master. He can’t refuse, knowing the cost will always be too much to bear. But his newest assignment comes as a surprise even to him. He is to follow the famous Hunter on his quest to bring back an ancient, magical artefact. When the fool finds it, he will kill him and bring magic back to the hands of Sultan. He is not expecting much of this journey, but it will change everything forever.

The story itself is nothing new. We have a group of people trying to find a powerful artefact to bring magic back and save the world. There is an ancient evil lurking about, waiting for its chance to spring up to action and slowly consuming all realms. The setting is a bit more exotic than usual. We can learn a lot of Arabic words, foods, and mythical creatures. But besides that, there’s not much to impress.

The characters weren’t very original. Zafira is a brave girl who fights against all the odds. Nasir is a man forced to violence by his own father, but inside he is the kind and gentle person who hates the monster he became. There is also a general travelling with Nasir, friendly and funny giant always ready to crack a joke to release tension. We also have another warrior maiden and a wise elf (Safin in Arabic mythology), both with very tragic and touching backstory. I really try to like them all. But I didn’t. I couldn’t care less if they live or die.

I think the main problem was the book pacing. We have a very long introduction seeing Zafira’s and Nasir’s lives, where not much is happening. And then the action moves to the cursed island when they embark on their quest. And then everything going too fast. It all happened in around ten days, and when all the characters met, they were antagonistic and knew better to trust each other, because everyone has their own agenda. And suddenly after like half an hour, they were all best friends. I know they had to make alliances and were in a very unfriendly environment, but it seemed to easy.

The whole quest which took most of the book I can describe as they walk, walk, walk, then got attacked by lots of mythical creatures, walk some more, another creatures ambush and so on. Between them, there were scenes where Nasir and Zafira tried to pointlessly deny that they fell in love with each other from the first sight (should I mentioned the fact, that Nasir was though to kill the man who proposes to Zafira, her best friend? No, I didn’t think so). I didn’t like the romance at all. There was also a lot of running, barking and hissing at each other and then passionate making up (who could resist deadly assassin, right?). There are also loads of bare-chested man walking around, apparently only to make the main character uncomfortable.

I really try to like this book, but I didn’t. It’s not a bad book, I’m sure there will be loads of people who will love it. It’s just there are so many YA fantasy books coming out every month, and I read many that would recommend instead. But if you feel intrigued by ancient Arabia theme and you are not discouraged by cheesy romance and lots of popular tropes you can try it and see if you like it more then me.

I’ve received the ARC of this book from NetGalley for an honest opinion.