A Hunter? Check. An Assassin? Check. Sandy desert fight scenes? Check. A band of misfits, a race to find a mysterious magical book that could bring back magic to a corrupt and dark world, and incredible character development? CHECK, CHECK, CHECK.
If you can’t tell, I loved this book. The descriptions were vivid and really felt like a feast for my internal eyes… if that makes any sort of sense. This story had me longing for this magical world, reminiscent of old Arabia. One thing I greatly enjoyed about this book was how many Muslim words I learned while reading it. I will be the first to admit that I’m ignorant of a lot Muslim culture, and I’d love to learn more beyond this fantasy book. Seriously, if you guys have any recommendations, do tell. From the clothes to the food to the buildings to the weapons, I learned so many things while reading that got me thinking and doing my own research. I love fantasy books that also give me the opportunity to learn about cultures different from my own.
The story starts off slow, following both Zafira and Nasir respectively. Zafira is the Hunter, and she has always been able to find her way in the Arz, the dark magical forest that no one returns from (except for her). Because of her caliph’s ridiculous rules that oppress women, she’s never shown her face as the Hunter. It could be dangerous for her, even though she has been single-handily saving the people of her village from famine for years. Ugh, misogyny. I hate it. After a strange encounter with the Silver Witch, she’s sent on a dangerous mission to return magic to her people and save them from the Arz.
Nasir is the crown prince and he also happens to be the sultan’s personal assassin. My heart broke for him throughout this novel, because you could tell from his thoughts that he despised being a weapon of death. His abusive father formed him into a monster, and he did it all in hopes that he would win his father’s approval. I knew there was something shady about his father, Ghameq. I think that’s also why Nasir kept trying so desperately hard to win over the sultan… he knew there was something wrong and the man who horribly abused and tortured him couldn’t be his father on the inside. Either way, his storyline broke my heart several times over as I made my way throughout the novel. I don’t think I’ve mentioned it enough: my heart’s broken for this man.
I’d say the book started off slow, but once I finished it I found the buildup necessary. Because the last half was WILD and so much happened that I almost couldn’t come up for air. We needed to see the struggle Zafira had each time she went hunting, how she longed for something more than what her village and Deen could give her. Speaking of Deen… I knew he was too good to be true. He was too pure and adored Zafira… which the feeling was not mutual, even if he was her best friend. I knew he was going to die the second he volunteered to go on the mission. I personally didn’t like how he kept wanting Zafira to be someone she wasn’t, so I really wasn’t that sad to see him go. We also needed to witness Nasir’s bleak lifestyle as his cruel father’s murderous lapdog, how he deep down hated his life and was numb to the pain. I loved Altair, and I knew there was more to him than the general that Nasir hated. His witty comments and humor when talking to Nasir made you want to hate him, but you also couldn’t help but love everything about him. From the way he and Nasir were drawn to each other, I suspected they were in fact siblings. He was literally a mystery up until the very end, with new revelations about his past and affinities popping up left and right.
The gradual start built up to the moment Zafira and Nasir met up, and the book only gained momentum from that point on. The intensity and attraction between Nasir and Zafira was magnetic, both of them on this roller coaster ride of internal confusion. They went through incredible growth on this journey, each losing the version of who they were before. I don’t think either one of them has found internal peace just yet, but hey, aren’t we all going through life a little confused? Once again, I’m a HUGE fan of duel perspectives in a story, and We Hunt the Flame did not disappoint in that department. Also, I have to say I think I loved every single character in the zumra. They all were bound together on this impossible mission, and they formed some sense of camaraderie through the darkness.
The magic within this book was compelling, from the mystery behind the six sisters, Nasir’s mother, the Silver Witch, and the Lion of the Night. Everything about this book was unexpected, and it kept racing in twists and turns that I did not see coming. Which is reading gold, if you ask me. The fight scenes were gripping, either making my heart race or shattering it (gahhh this book and my broken heart). I read in Hafsah Faizal’s bio that she loves playing Assassin’s Creed, and those vibes were certainly very strong in this book. I love that, as I find Assassin’s Creed to be one of the coolest video games out there. This book was captivating, and I highly recommend it if you’ve got a penchant for fantasy novels.