We Hunt the Plot

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

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Thank you, Macmillan, for giving me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

We hunt the flame, the light in the darkness, the good this world deserves.

This was a diverse but very boring debut. I finished it in a month even after downloading the Audible edition and listening to it at 1.5x speed. Sadly, the prowess of both narrators did not compensate for the slow pace of the plot. I’m not a stranger to flowery writing; I love the lyrical voices of Roshani Chokshi, Mary E. Pearson, and Marie Rutkoski. However, this book proves that there’s no point to excellent telling when there’s hardly any showing.

We Hunt the Flame is the story of Zafira, a huntress forced to disguise herself as a man. After magic disappears from the world, a dark forest called the Arz begins encroaching upon her sultanate and the rest of Arawiya like an ominous storm cloud. One day, Zafira learns of her calling: She can save everyone by retrieving the Jawarat, a mysterious artifact created by the founders of Arawiya. With the help of her “inner compass,” Zafira crosses both land and sea in search of her quarry. Meanwhile, an assassin named Nazir is given a similar mission: to follow Zafira and claim the Jawarat for his corrupt father. Can the Huntress beat the Prince of Death?

This novel had great world-building. For instance, Arawiya was divided into five regions ruled by a sultan. Like the 12 districts in The Hunger Games, each segment specialized in something for the benefit of society. However, because of the looming Arz, Zafira’s sultanate had the lowest quality of life. The upper class was mostly comprised of safi, immortal creatures with pointed ears. And like the typical bourgeoisie, the safi hoarded their resources, indifferent to the needs of their poor neighbors. Because of this inequality, Arawiya and its people became more fragmented than ever. On the flip side, these literal and figurative divisions also resulted in racial diversity. As a whole, the setting of this book was relatable and familiar even though it was fantastical.

The author dedicated so many paragraphs to developing the protagonists, so her work felt like a character dissertation. For a book with almost 500 pages, almost nothing happened. In retrospect, Zafira and Nasir’s quest to find the Jawarat could be compressed to a novella or short story. There were too many conversations and internal monologues from point A to point B to point C. If the characters had been more compelling, perhaps I wouldn’t have minded the tortoise-slow pace. As it was, I didn’t care much about Nasir’s daddy issues and Zafira’s identity crisis; these kinds of conflict could be taken from a general guide to writing YA fantasy. The side characters were more entertaining, but they also had cookie-cutter personalities.

In the end, although I felt very jaded, I guess I could give more value to the book by seeing it as a story of family, friendship, and redemption. Also, I liked some of the revelations in the latter part of the novel. Still, if I hadn’t bought the audiobook, I would have marked We Hunt the Flame as DNF (did not finish).