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
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