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

Who: Farrar Straus Giroux

When: May 14th 2019

How: A copy of this novel was provided by Pan Macmillan Australia for review.

Zafira is the Hunter, disguising herself as a man to brave 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, her achievements would be rejected; if Nasir displayed compassion, his father would brutally punish him. War is brewing in Arawiya, and when Zafira embarks on a quest to uncover an artifact that can restore magic 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-and the prize they seek poses a threat greater than either can imagine. Set in a rich world inspired by ancient Arabia, We Hunt the Flame is a story of conquering fear and taking identity into your own hands.

There are three reasons in general that I gave We Hunt the Flame a two star rating. Here they are, if you are so inclined to read them:

1) The queerbaiting

From practically the moment We Hunt the Flame started the queerbaiting was in overdrive. It mainly occurs between one of the narrators, Nasir, and a side character called Altair. Nasir notices things about Altair like his twinkling eyes and his lovely laugh and even though it seems odd, Nasir (being an ~evil assassin~ and all) also claims ownership over Altair’s death. Altair, in turn, constantly flirts with Nasir – calls him darling and other pet names, talks about Nasir kissing him and Nasir staring at him. The queerbaiting was so overt in We Hunt the Flame that I actually did not think it was going to end up being queerbaiting. I legitimately thought that Nasir and Altair were queer characters flirting with each other at the start of their relationship.

How very wrong I was. It wasn’t until Altair enters an incredibly forced relationship with a girl he met a hot second ago, and Nasir starts pining over a seventeen year old (he’s twenty) that I realised something was amiss. And then, towards the end, just in case readers weren’t fully aware of how nonqueer these two characters were it was revealed that there was no way that these two were ever actually going to be an item and they never would. I won’t say why since it’s a spoiler, but yeah the point was well and truly Made.

I feel like queerbaiting isn’t as prevalent in books as it is in TV shows, but that doesn’t diminish its impact. Queerbaiting is never okay and it sucks to read, and saying that a character is generally flirty with everyone and therefore that’s a pass… it’s not a pass. In any way. It’s still queerbaiting because there were the undertones of queer representation that was taken away like the rug being swept out from under your feet. I am not a fan of queerbaiting in any shape or form. It’s just not on.

2) The terrible “banter”

I don’t think I have ever read banter that was so cringe worthy. I actually rolled my eyes more times than I can count whenever the characters tried to say something witty and start up banter with each other. I would prefer solemn characters with no banter than characters with the worst banter imaginable. Banter takes talent, and unfortunately that talent just wasn’t here.

3) It was boring and repetitive

If I ever read a variation of “her name was [insert name] and she was the [insert title]” again it will be too damn soon. I just despise that overused sentence about being your own name and whatever you actually are. In this case Zafira and the Hunter/Huntress. I get it. You could go into a forest no one else could and while you were there you killed animals to eat. Do I then need to reminded of this tremendous talent every few pages? No, I really don’t. Otherwise it gets damn repetitive and I end up not giving a crap about the supposed ability of the main character and her coveted role and title.

Besides that element of repetitiveness, the entire book was repetitive. We Hunt the Flame turned out to be a journey book. I actually don’t mind journey books because it leaves room for character reflection and development. Unfortunately We Hunt the Flame didn’t replace action with great character reflection and development and instead relied on scenes of random attack every hundred or so pages. Fight ensues, Zafira talks about being the Hunter, Nasir talks about being a murderer, and they all come out fine. I’m sorry but there are only so many “life or death” ambushes on a travelling party that I can take before I really don’t care if any of the characters actually live or die.

In between these numerous ambushes and fights to the death, absolutely nothing happens in this novel. I could honestly summarise in about two paragraphs what this book took 500 pages to convey. There was nothing pulling me into the story. I can usually find a character to fall in love with or at least care about, but these characters were so flat and their relationships so forced that I just didn’t feel anything for them. If there’s no character to care about I can sometimes subsist on a great storyline but We Hunt the Flame did not provide me with that, either. The book was just… flat in every way.

~

I’m pretty disappointed that I didn’t end up enjoying We Hunt the Flame because I really thought I would. However, I really can’t get beyond queerbaiting and even if I was able to overlook it the rest of the book was nothing special for me to behold anyway.

© 2019, Chiara @ Books for a Delicate Eternity. All rights reserved.

trigger warning

torture, reference to past child abuse, use of ableist language, reference to murder of mother, murder of friend, mentally ill mother, reference to death of father, physical fights, blood and gore, multiple murders, hallucinations, reference to death of brother, false imprisonment/abduction, poverty (lack of food), animal hunting, animal cruelty

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Posted on: May 14, 2019 • By: Chiara

7 Responses to Three Reasons Why I Rated Why We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal Two Stars

  1. Brooklyn says:

    So much yes to the repetitiveness! It was so frustrating 🙈

  2. Ohhhhh no I had high hopes for this one but omg queer baiting?! I am still trying to get over my anger from that in The Graces/The Curses (which I loved and then…arhisrgh). That’s a pretty big turn off for me. I’m sorry you had to be slapped in the face with this again too. 😔

  3. I don’t read tons of fantasy, so this wasn’t one I was really DYING to read, but I’m still sorry to hear it just wasn’t good…and in bad ways too, like queerbaiting. NOT COOL. I’m pretty sure I would have stopped reading this one with all the repetitiveness and nothing really happening – combined with not so interesting characters.

  4. Damn, this is so disappointing! Especially the queer baiting has me all 😭😡 I feel like it’s been discussed so much and attention has been brought to instances of it so many that I cannot believe it was an oversight, I just cannot. I’m very frustrated because I was super-excited and wanted to support the author, but yikes, this ain’t it. Great review, sorry you had to be disappointed.

  5. I’m so sorry you didn’t enjoy this one, Chiara. I am looking forward to read this book because it seems like something I genuinely will enjoy. I’ve been reading so many meh reviews since then though, so I’m not sure anymore. The queerbaiting really sucks, from your review I actually think the characters are queer too :/ While I acknowledge that yes, guys can be touchy with his friends, paying attention to laughs and twinkling eyes definitely fell into the queerbaiting territory- it’s just cross the line! I’m sorry you have to read this.

  6. Argh NOOO! Why do they still pull this shit :-(
    It’s off my TBR. There are so many fantastic queer books out there, I’ll go read one of those instead <3 :-)

  7. Star says:

    That is so disappointing.
    Queerbaiting is such a cheap tactic to use to get us queer people to read and buy books/consume media, and I’m so very sick of it, just like you are.
    This book is definitely exiting my wishlist now after this. Which is such a shame, because it sounded like it had potential.

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