Review of We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal

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.

If ever there was a book of 2 halves for me it is We Hunt the Flame, I was so excited for this book, it was truly everywhere I looked on Instagram, Book Twitter and book events – I got my copy as an early release at Yalc 2 days before my request was granted on Netgalley. I went into it blind, captivated about the excitement surrounding it, I really wish I had looked at some reviews first. The thing is, I can see why so many people love it and it had huge potential to be so much more for me, but in the end I can say that it was just okay.

I’ll start with what I enjoyed though! I loved the star embossing on the title font for the cover, it’s a subtle thing but it really is quite beautiful to look at. The world building is pretty good, considering the author gave herself pretty bleak environments to work with. From frozen wastes to the arid desert, it’s no wonder that many feel the journey is one Zafira may not return from, the story does have bursts of colour though in places and these do thankfully appear enough to break up the otherwise dull surrounding, be it through dreams or flashback, they help to keep the pages turning. The mystery of the Arz was one I was really intrigued about, I was fascinated by it’s creation and how it claimed people in the way it did, the way it linked into the detailed back story was one of my favourite parts of book.  I loved the little bits of history and most certainly the mythology around The Sisters and how magic was lost to the land. The Silver Witch was one of the most intriguing characters, turning up like Mother Aughra giving cryptic clues and not always helpful advice, her story arc is great. I also have to say that I adored Altair and for me he carried much of the story with his snarky quips and banter, he and Kifah are kinda sweet too in a shy way. His development is fantastic and I lost count of the bombshells dropping around him, I really hope he gets more of an opportunity to shine through later in the series, because truly, Nasir didn’t really cut it for me.

Honestly though, I found I struggled to really care much about what was happening for the most part and I struggled to connect with nearly all of the characters. I truly became very confused with the names, everyone has their actual name, a nickname, a mystical name, a pet name – I often found myself utterly mystified with who was talking. I’m still not sure when Kifah turned up, but for a good while I didn’t even realise she was an actual separate character. The journey felt very repetitive too, it was like every other chapter had to be punctuated with a fight with the Ifrit, in some ruins, partially reclaimed by the desert, like we were in some old school console game where the simple programming replayed the same fight but just in a different place. I also struggled to read the tiny font which didn’t endear me to keep picking it back up, especially at nearly 500 pages which is somewhat unheard of for a debut title. There was plenty that could have been edited out, with a handful of redundant characters and plenty of plot that was just pure exposition – it could have easily shaved a good couple of hundred pages and probably been a much better read for it.

Ultimately, this just about scrapes into a 3 star because the 10% of characters I liked rescued it for me as well as some jaw to the floor reveals which just about kept me turning the pages. I appreciate that there may have been plenty of leg work setting up the world building for the next book, but I’m probably not going to continue with the series or at least I will properly consider reviews before taking the plunge again.

3*

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