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REVIEW: ‘We Hunt the Flame’ by Hafsah Faizal is a promising debut

As one of this year’s most highly-anticipated YA books, does ‘We Hunt the Flame’ deliver or fall flat?
 

We Hunt the Flame will take readers on a fun quest inside a fantasy world inspired by ancient Arabia!

The blurb:

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 king. 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 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 king 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.

One of the toughest elements to conquer in a YA fantasy story is the world-building. There is either not enough information or way too much. In We Hunt the Flame it felt like both. Zafira, along with the mysterious darkened forest called the Arz, are quickly introduced. Both felt as if readers are expected to already know why the Arz is dangerous or why Zafira can survive inside. I immediately felt confused within the first chapter.

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There is no doubt that Hafsah Faizal is a brilliant writer. She weaves together words in a poetic way with beautiful descriptions. That being said, I think We Hunt the Flame could have pulled me into the story more if I wasn’t hit with so much world-building all at once. It made it that much harder to connect with the characters.

We Hunt the Flame is told through a dual POV of Zafira and Nasir. These two come from different worlds but they have one thing in common. They both must hide a crucial piece of themselves in order to survive. Zafira pretends to be a man and is known as the Hunter, a savior to her people. Nasir is the Prince of Death who is forced to shut out his feelings of compassion and be the most dangerous assassin in the world. Even with characteristics that are common in YA, I enjoyed both of them.

There are awesome secondary characters, too! They dominated the pages once they were introduced to the story. At times they felt more fleshed out than Zafira or Nasir. I’m certain there will be a few fan favorites from this crew!

Once they set off on their shared quest, the story starts to move along quicker. There is a lot more action, magic, and twists to keep readers turning the pages. I wish the entire book was as great as the second half because I’m positive if it was I would have instantly fallen in love with it.

Overall, We Hunt the Flame is a solid read about carving your own path. I had high expectations and was ready to fall head over heels for this book. Sadly it was too info-dump-y for me to fully immerse myself into the characters and this world. After finishing I was left feeling unsatisfied and full of lots of questions. I think We Hunt the Flame will appeal to readers who generally love YA fantasies, and fans of Renee Ahdieh.

3
Full of potential with a fun quest.
Plot
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We Hunt the Flame is centered around a group of characters who set out on an adventure in hopes of a better future. With a lot of time spent on world-building there isn’t much room left for readers to fall completely in love with each individual. I wanted to root for our main characters’ fight — especially through Hafsah Faizal’s poetric writing — but sadly I was only left with disappointment and confusion.