Review: We Hunt the Flame (Sands of Arawiya #1) by Hafsah Faizal

I have been following Hafsah Faizal on Twitter since the beginning of time it feels like. She was first a designer of websites and other bookish merch and I was thrilled to see that she was working on her very own novel!

Watching her journey unfold on social media has been wonderful to watch and I couldn’t wait for the release of this novel. I had it on pre-order for months and when it finally showed up I was eager to crack it open.

The cover is stunning and the premise sounds so exciting with a strong middle eastern flavor and I was totally here for it!

Summary

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.

Set in a richly detailed world inspired by ancient Arabia, We Hunt the Flame is a gripping debut of discovery, conquering fear, and taking identity into your own hands (summary from Goodreads)

Review

One of the big things that excited me about this book was the author is incredibly proud of her Muslim heritage and culture and I was eager to see how that played out in the overall story but also in the romance that the story contained. I don’t know a lot about Muslim culture but romance is normally not the first thing I think of so I was extra excited for the romance in this one to see how unique and different it was from other traditional YA novels.

I picked this one up several times before actually starting it. It just wasn’t grabbing me when it first came and I tried to start it, nor was it grabbing me a few months later when I tried again. But I thought it was because I wasn’t really in the mood to read any YA, but then I read a couple of other YA novels and was on a YA kick so I thought this would be the perfect time to start it.

So I pressed on and read this one. This book is pretty long, roughly 450 pages and for the first 300 pages, it was a slow slow slow situation. There was a ton of words that I was unfamiliar with and while that’s ok, I found that I was more confused by the lack of description and thick language throughout the book than the actual unfamiliar words. For example, the Arz, was it a forest? Was it just darkness? Was it a spell? Was it magic? What was it? I had no idea and I honestly still don’t know what it was.

Then there’s the romance. The two characters don’t meet until like almost half way through. While the times they were together were ripe with tension and chemistry, there just wasn’t enough build up between the two to make it fully believable. Nasir had the dark brooding situation down and while I normally love that in a love interest, I needed more interaction between Nasir and Zafira to make me buy into it more. Perhaps the next book will have more?

Now Altair had a ton of potential. He was charming, funny, and interesting. I think theres a lot more backstory built for him and more general interest for me. Not necessarily as a love interest for Zafira, but I think he could potentially have his own spin off because I think there is a lot of untapped story in his character that I would love to see how it plays out.

So where does that leave me with this one? I don’t really know to be honest. I mean I applaud her effort and I know that a ton of other people loved this one, but for me it was incredibly slow. The last 100-150 pages were really good though so I don’t know. I think there’s potential for the next book to be really good, but something about this one just left me unsatisfied and bored. On the other hand, I love that the author is tapping into her culture and heritage for this series. It feels exotic and new based on the content while the bones feel familiar as YA novels go. In the end I went with 2.5 stars for this one. I mean I did finish it and enjoyed the last 100 or so pages and would consider picking up the next book, but can’t say that I loved every minute of this one and that it didn’t feel like a chore at times.

Book Info and Rating

Hardcover, First Edition, 469 pages
Published May 14th 2019 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux Inc
Review copy provided by, personal collection, all opinions are my own and in no way influenced.
Rating: 2.5 stars
Genre: YA, fantasy

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