Rating: ★★★★☆ (4/5)
Threatened by the growing darkness of the Arz, the kingdom of Arawiya can only be saved by an artefact hidden within the cursed forest of the Sharr. Known as the hunter and her identity a secret to any outsiders, Zafira’s ability to navigate the forest captures the attention of a mysterious witch who claims that Zafira can return magic to the world. But she isn’t the only one in this search. Nasir, a prince and an assassin for his father, is sent to kill the Hunter and retrieve the book himself. Soon, they are thrown together by an enemy far greater than they’d ever expected.
My initial thoughts for this was that I enjoyed this a lot more than I has anticipated. I knowingly hold books that are extremely hyped at an arm’s length, because I have been disappointed by them too much in the past. But this was something different.
We Hunt the Flame is told through a dual perspective of Zafira and Nasir. Zafira, a hunter who masquerades as a man, and Nasir, a Prince of Death, who is forced to conceal compassion to carry out his father’s will. Both of them are top notch leads with distinct voices. Zafira enters the Sharr because otherwise, the Arz would destroy her home, but the loss isn’t something new to her. After her father died after navigating the Arz by himself, Zafira is motivated to save the ones she loved. Nasir is a man broken by his own father, and it was devastating to see him be so conflicted over what he wants but knowing that it will always lead to the suffering of the ones around him.
The side characters are the ones who really made this book for me. There are two new arrivals later on in the story, who I won’t mention because I don’t want to spoil this entire story for any new readers, but Altair, the Sultan’s general who is with Nasir from the very beginning, was hilarious. I wasn’t too sure about how I felt about his comedic nature in such a serious story. They are unlikely companions who work rather well together.
There is much to this story; it can feel like an overload of information, especially in the beginning. I have to admit, it takes a while for the story to begin truly. But by the end, I didn’t really regret it. The magical aspects, immortal and dangerous figures, and the folklore of Arawiya, all inspired by ancient Arabia made this story work. Faisal creates such a vivid world, both visually and politically. I was mainly intrigued by the political conflict and the divide between the humans and the divines, which sets the ground for mortally conflicted characters. The bones of the political premise aren’t fully set yet, so it feels like it hasn’t differentiated itself from the other; however, the ending definitely began to set the scene a lot more.
Overall, We Hunt the Flame is rather exhilarating. I really enjoyed the writing, the characters, and the world they all live in. The structure and pacing can come across as a little off at some point, but I do have high hopes for future instalments. I believe how Faisal chooses to continue the story will really set the stage and decide its future as an epic fantasy series.