Title: We Hunt the Flame (Sands of Arawiya #1)
Author: Hafsah Faizal
Synopsis: 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.
Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!
I am super torn on We Hunt the Flame. On one hand, there is some fantastic world-building and some kick ass visual language at work here. There is an interesting premise, but then it goes to macguffin town (which is fine), and also just misses a spark for me in terms of its characters. I am a character reader, so while the plot had great peaks and valleys, the characters left a lot to be desired for me.
And really, that is just on Nasir. I don’t dig the passive assassin trope mainly because I find it to be such a weird oxymoron. Compassionate assassin is a neat idea, but given how this book is set up, it just didn’t gel with me. I think one of the other elements I struggled with was that both characters stories read a bit too similarly for me. I loved Zafira’s story and I think hers was easily the stronger of the two and I feel like she got to be a protagonist who gave a crap about her people, who was willing to sacrifice herself for her people, and her motivations just make so much more sense compared to Nasir.
I think there is great ideas in this book, but I wish there had been a bit more action and a little less angst. I found the angst didn’t help this story either. I really loved the world and the relationships that Zafira forges in the story, and I thought the writing was decent too! It’s just one of those fantasy novels where I don’t know if it will stick with me long term, sadly.