Book Recommendations, Booksish Discussions, Muslim Shelf Space

Why You Should Read We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal

We Free the Stars is finally out today and if you haven’t read We Hunt the Flame yet and need some incentive then here are some reasons why you should absolutely pick up this duology! So here are some reasons as to why you absolutely NEED to pick up these books!

The World That Hafsah Has Created

This is an ancient Arabia inspired world and the world building is incredible. We are completely immersed in the world right from the beginning. The intricate details makes you feel like you’re standing right there with the characters. I love that feeling because it will make you feel everything so much more deeply and vividly. The smells and tastes and feeling the heat and the sand. It created an incredible experience when reading.

The Character Arcs

The character development for the characters over the two books was incredible. Our two main characters have such wonderful growth, learning to see that they are more than what they have been made into and I really loved reading their journey. Zafira is a hunter and has been singlehandedly keeping her whole village fed despite their opinions on women and it was so wonderful to see her work through her own self worth and how powerful she is. Nasir has known only pain and killing and his journey was really difficult but seeing him slowly realise he can be more, he can love and be loved was so incredible to see. Altair is my absolute favourite and I am so happy that we got to see more of him and his journey in the books too. He has a painful journey and is full of secrets so we slowly learn more about him and trust me you will fall more and more in love with him with each revelation.

Enemies to Lovers Trope

If you’re a fan of enemies to lovers then you will love this book. The tension and angst and the slow build up will leave you screaming for more. The way they start off by literally trying to kill each other and slowly learn to work together despite their differences. The tentative way they begin to trust each other when they haven’t been able to trust anyone else in this way. It’s pure perfection. Also We Free the Stars takes the sexual tension and turns it full and I was LIVING for their every single interaction.

Zafira is a Feminist Icon

She alone is able to go into the forest in search of food and keep her village alive and avoiding starvation but she has to hide who she truly is because a woman is not worth anything in her caliphate. Everyone thinks the famed hunter is a man and she has kept it this way to help her people. But as she is leaving she reveals who she truly is and vows to show them what a woman can do. The courage and strength we see from her time and time again showing everyone that women are more than capable of achieving great things. She also goes through her own journey of learning who she is and what she is truly capable of no matter what men claim about women. I loved how Hafsah wove this all into the story.

The Banter and Friendship the Zumra Have Together

I loved seeing the banter between the zumra. The sassy remarks they make at each other and how they have light moments despite being in such perilous situations. Altair and Zafira are really sarcastic with each other and I loved seeing it. I love seeing how close they get during their journey even though they start out not trusting each other.

Hafsah’s Beautiful Writing

Hafsah has such a way with words. Her writing is lyrical and lush and I found myself tabbing away at the beautiful quotes in these books. The writing is vivid and descriptive and will evoke so much emotion while you are reading.

I will leave you with some of my favourite quotes from We Hunt the Flame:

“If I told you my name, would you bow?” His voice was soft. A melancholy caress. He lifted his chin when understanding dawned on her face. “Or would you flee?”

Together, we will raise the dunes from the earth, and rain death from the sky. Together, we are capable of anything.

A life without purpose may be no life, but a life without love is nothing but an existence.

There was nothing more respectable and dangerous than a woman of confidence.

Everyone go read We Hunt the Flame and then pick up We Free the Stars because this duology is incredible and deserves all the love.

Disclaimer: Please note I am not responsible for the emotional mess that this duology will leave you in.

Books by Muslim Authors, Muslim Shelf Space, YA Books

We Free the Stars by Hafsah Faizal – ARC Review

Thank you to Macmillan Childrens Books for sending me this arc in exchange for an honest review.

This is the sequel to We Hunt the Flame and has become one of my absolute favourite reads!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

The battle on Sharr is over. The dark forest has fallen. Altair may be captive, but Zafira, Nasir, and Kifah are bound for Sultan’s Keep, determined to finish the plan he set in motion: restoring the hearts of the Sisters of Old to the minarets of each caliphate, and finally returning magic to all of Arawiya. But they are low on resources and allies alike, and the kingdom teems with fear of the Lion of the Night’s return.

As the zumra plots to overthrow the kingdom’s darkest threat, Nasir fights to command the magic in his blood. He must learn to hone his power into a weapon, to wield not only against the Lion but against his father, trapped under the Lion’s control. Zafira battles a very different darkness festering in her through her bond with the Jawarat—a darkness that hums with voices, pushing her to the brink of her sanity and to the edge of a chaos she dare not unleash. In spite of the darkness enclosing ever faster, Nasir and Zafira find themselves falling into a love they can’t stand to lose…but time is running out to achieve their ends, and if order is to be restored, drastic sacrifices will have to be made.

This book and the zumra has been living in my head rent free since I read it. I really enjoyed We Hunt the Flame but this book was absolutely phenomenal. There is no way I can truly explain how much I loved this book and how incredible the characters arcs were. This is Zafira and Nasir’s story and I loved their arcs so much. Especially Nasir who had such incredible growth and development from the hashashin we meet in We Hunt the Flame. But I also adored Altair, he was my favourite in the first book and I loved him even more in this one. I will forever mourn Benyamin who made them the zumra but was not able to see all that they achieved.

Tears aren’t a measure of heart. We grieve in different ways.

The book starts right where we ended in WHTF and while the first book started a little slower to build the world and introduce the characters, this book takes us straight into the action and show us what the characters are doing and how they are dealing with the aftermath of the ending of WHTF. I loved that we see more of the world in this book as we travel to different places as each character continues their journeys. I loved the world building and the glimpses we get of an even wider world yet to be explored and I hope we get to see them one day too!

Zafira is dealing with having the jawarat speak to her and try to manipulate her and also trying to come to terms with the fact that her people no longer need a hunter so who is she if she isn’t the hunter. I loved seeing her battle with this, it felt so real and so relatable, trying to figure out who you are and who you want to be when you aren’t forced to be something for the sake of others. As the eldest daughter, it felt so real that internal struggle she has, can she truly live her life for herself without that guilt weighing her down. I really loved how her story ended and the choices she makes for herself. She also has to deal with the misogyny and sexism and fights against this and I just loved it so much.

One of the most difficult parts of her story was reading about the guilt and tension between her and Yassmine because of the death of Deen and that it was Altair that killed him, who is now Zafira’s friend. I loved their bond and relationship in the first book so it was heartbreaking to read the strain in their relationship in this book but it also felt real, and I loved how they started to work through it but it wasn’t magically fixed and we see that it will require work from both of them. But in this book we also see her build a wonderful friendship with Kifah and I just loved seeing them both work together and be able to turn to each other.

My blade is yours. Until every last star is freed, we are bound.

Nasir’s arc was so incredible to read in this book, I liked him in WHTF but in this book I completely loved him. No one is more surprised by this than I am especially as I am usually not a fan of the broody characters but his growth and development was just SO GOOD. I loved seeing him learn to accept himself and let other people in and that caring isn’t a bad thing. His and Zafira’s scenes were so delicious to read, truly, the sexual tension and the angst was done so perfectly and I just lived for their scenes. Nasir is completely smitten by Zafira and the way he describes her and treats her like the queen she is was just so wonderful to see. Him also learning to use his powers and realising that it isn’t something that is jut evil was also something that I really loved reading.

I loved seeing him and Altair also start to build a better relationship with each other, especially after we find out they are half brothers in WHFT and that Altair has been working to build a better world for them all. There is so much baggage between them and yet you can see how much they truly end up caring for each other.

Do you understand brother? You’ll have me. No matter how thick the night, I will always be there to light your way.

We learn a lot more about Altair in this book too and his past and all the mysterious things he did to get everyone to the Sharr in WHTF. I loved learning about his back story but it was also tragic and I just want all the happiness for him. I am so glad we see more of him especially as he is my favourite with his wit and sarcasm and yet he cares so deeply for everyone even as he feels discarded. Seeing his resentment of Nasir was so heartbreaking to read and I felt truly afraid for him at times.

We also see more of Lana in this book and I loved her so much, she is so young yet has had to grow up so quickly and an incredible healer and I loved seeing her interactions with Zafira and one particular memorable moment between her and Nasir. We are also introduced to a few new characters that I really enjoyed reading about too.

You have your duty as I have mine.

The zumra spend the book trying to save their people from the lion of the night who has made himself king and they go through a lot and have to come to terms with a lot about themselves too. But we also learn a lot about the lion too and how he became who he is now and his life is also so tragic. We see how cycles of abuse hurt everyone and that it has to end to be able to build a better world and heal rather than seeking revenge for the way they were wronged.

We will carve our names upon history, and we, too, shall live forever.

This book ties up Zafira and Nasir’s story really well and I loved both their endings so much, it felt so fitting for them. I would however love to see a spin off with Altair because I just want to see him get some happiness because he suffers so much in this book. Also there is more I want to say but I can’t because spoilers but truly I can see the spin off with him a certain character and I just need it!

This book is phenomenal and I need you all to go buy it and read it. The writing is so rich and vivid and the world is so intricate and the characters are amazing. I just loved this book so much.

Book Tag

The Zumra Book Tag

So the lovely Rameela has created an amazing book tag inspired by the Zumra from We Hunt the Flame! So of course I had to do the tag!

Here is the link for the tag

Zafira bint Iskander: An emotionally driven character or book

The Bloodprint is quite emotionally driven. The MC is driven by her wanting to get justice and build a better world for her people.

Nasir Ghameq: Angsty boy A character that’s conflicted/at war with themselves

Altan is really conflicted throughout The Poppy War. I really felt for him and how awful his life has been.

Kifah Darwish: A book with lots of food in it (or a foodie character)

The Candle and the Flame is full of food references that had me drooling! Every time a gulab jamun was mentioned it made me crave it.

Benyamin Haadi: A book with a “mum” character (or a book with wisdom you didn’t seek)

Laila from The Gilded Wolves is definitely a mum character. She looks after everyone especially Zofia.

Altair al-Badawi: A secretive character (or a book that kept you guessing)

Descendant of the Crane had me guessing until the end. I really loved this book and it had me hooked!

Deen Ra’ad: A simp A pure cinnamon roll

Adam from Love From A to Z is a pure cinnamon roll and I love him so much!

Yamine Ra’ad: A character you wouldn’t want on your bad side

Juliette Cai from These Violent Delights is deadly and there is no way I would want to get on her bad side.

Lana bint Iskander: A character that had to grow up too quickly

The Qahtani siblings from The Daevabad trilogy. I mean do they even get to have a childhood at all?

Books by Muslim Authors, Diverse Books, Muslim Shelf Space, YA Books

We Hunt The Flame by Hafsah Faizal – ARC Review

Thank you to My Kinda Book for sending me a copy of this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

I have been following Hafsah for a while now and when she announced her book was being published I squealed with joy! I was actually seeing a visibly Muslim woman, who wears a niqab, being published and she was getting so much support from the book community! I knew without even knowing anything about this book that I would buy it as I so needed to support my sister and I really hope we get more diverse authors being published and really supported in the book community.

And then the rave reviews started coming in and my excitement level for this book went through the roof! And it’s safe to say that it did not disappoint! I loved this book and the zumra are my new faves and I could just read pages and pages of their banter alone!

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Rating: 4.5/5

Synopsis from Goodreads:

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.

Hafsah’s writing is so beautiful that I did not want to stop reading. Her descriptions and wonderfully intricate world building allowed her world to come to life. It’s as if you are right there with the characters. I loved learning about the history of the world and the magic system.

This book is full of diverse characters and a culture and traditions and language that isn’t normally seen in books. I had a huge grin on my face reading Arabic words and terminology that is the norm in Arabia in this book! It enriched the story even more and honestly I just wish we get more stories like this where diversity is the norm.

The story is told from two points of view, Zafira and Nasir, and I fell in love with them right from the first chapter. I was tabbing away because I just wanted to remember every sentence. They are both such distinct characters that they were easy to switch between points of view without getting confused.

“‘If I told you my name, would you bow?’ His voice was soft. A melancholy caress. ‘Or would you flee?'”

Nasir is our emotionally distant, seriously deadly assassin who I immediately decided was in fact a cinnamon roll and just needed a hug. He has had a pretty tragic life and I just felt for him so much. I loved his character growth as the story progresses and how he has to come to terms with a lot of things he discovers along the way. I cannot wait to see more of him in the next book!

“I’ll show him what a woman can do. She startled herself with that thought, rough and angry. Because conquering the Arz wasn’t enough. Now she was going to conquer the Sharr.”

Zafira is a badass and I really loved how Hafsah showed her turmoil between wanting to be herself and hiding who she is, when she disguises herself as a boy, because people will not see past her being a woman, even though she has done so much to help her community. I really related to her because there are people who don’t see past the scarf on my head and I am so much more than that. I also loved how sassy and sarcastic she is and her friendship with Yasmine and Deen is so beautiful and I am really looking forward to seeing more of her and Yasmine together. I think one of my favourite things about Zafira was how naïve and oblivious she is to people flirting with her. It was so funny to read!

And then we have the rest of the zumra! Who are actually squad goals and I just want to hang out with them. Altair is just the most sassy, sarcastic, self-confident person ever and will flirt with a tree and I absolutely loved him! I could just read a book about him! Kifah is a badass and Benyamin is a sweet heart. The whole gang is full of sarcastic characters and honestly these are my favourite type of characters so I cannot possibly choose a favourite. Each of them are interesting and complex and fully fleshed out. It’s easy to distinguish between them because they each have distinct voices.

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The story itself is so rich and the world building is phenomenal and although it is a little slow at the beginning, it’s because the world and backstory is so wonderfully woven into the story so you don’t mind reading it all. Then as the story begins and we meet all the characters it becomes even more intricate. The second half of the story is a lot more fast paced and filled with plot twists that will leave you reeling. Hafsah is so great at the foreshadowing and including plot twists that I didn’t see coming! I thought I knew what was happening but she still managed to surprise me.

This book is for anyone who loves a group of sassy, sarcastic characters. Beautifully rich world building and writing that is almost lyrical. And I highly recommend reading it!