It’s a bit ironic that I’m the one writing this column considering I don’t have TikTok on my phone. I do, however, have Instagram reels, which is basically TikTok but three weeks behind. In this column, I will be reviewing books that are either really hyped up by TikTok or given really poor reviews. Warning: I am extremely biased in what I read, and I’m a sucker for Young Adult Fantasy books with a good enemies-to-lovers trope. Hopefully, my opinion of these books will help you decide whether it should be your next read.
“We Hunt the Flame” by Hafsah Faizal:
I absolutely adore this book. Like, if I could marry a book, I would marry this one. First off, a warning, this book is a part of a duology. People may have opinions on the amount of time they are willing to invest into a series, and I totally get that. Also, just the cost of investing in a book series is definitely something that I know people may like to know in advance before starting a book. The fact that this book is the first of two is never advertised on BookTok, so boy oh boy was I confused when I came to the end on a cliffhanger, only to find out there is a whole other book.
That being said, I also read the second book, “We Free the Stars,” and it was just as amazing as “We Hunt the Flame.” So I was a little surprised to see nothing about “We Free the Stars.” It wasn’t that kind of series where the storyline falls off or becomes repetitive after multiple books. It definitely stayed consistent in its quality, and I always found myself enthralled in the world which Faizal created. It also helps that this isn’t a long series, and everything does get wrapped up by the end of the second book. Though, the potential for a continuation with some characters for a third book is definitely there.
Why should you read “We Hunt the Flame?” The book has it all: enemies to lovers trope, a dope female protagonist who doesn’t need a man, a fantasy journey and just some really great quotes.
Your main protagonist is Zafira, a Huntress who disguises as a man to provide food for her people by venturing into the Arz. Zafira gets approached by a witch to go on a quest to retrieve an item that would get rid of the Arz which plagues her people. Only, she’s not the only one after this artifact, Nasir, the Prince of Death, is also after it by the order of his father. As they journey through the Arz both characters find themselves in an alliance with each other as they learn about the history of their lands and the truths in the myths they’ve been told.
This book is the first book in a while where I was just stunned by some of the lines including: “A thousand leagues and a thousand sands. For you a thousand times I would defy the sun,” “darkness is the absence of light, the mere reason light exists. Without darkness, light would have no confines” and “a life without purpose may be no life, but a life without love is nothing but an existence.”
I mean, come on, this book is just so beautifully written and it’s one of the few books where I think the characters all make sense together. The main protagonists of the novel form a zumra, which means a group, and you can see how these personalities work together and it’s really believable. The characters have so much dimension to them, and you can tell that they were never meant to be individual characters because they all weave into each other. Their actions are responses to those around them and are driven by the situations they find themselves in. The way they fight together and communicate is so wonderfully portrayed and you can really see how they become a part of each other’s meaning.
It’s difficult enough as a writer to create a character that people can love as an individual. But Faizal has created characters who you love individually from their own internal monologues, as well as the way they interact in this larger network.
The book also just flows wonderfully, even in the transition to “We Free the Stars.” Everything that Faizal writes has a purpose and a reason, nothing is thrown in “just because.” It’s a slow-burn with your enemies-to-lovers trope because you see these two characters—Zafira and Nasir—who are diametrically opposed and how they eventually find their way to each other. And it’s beautiful. Especially since you see character traits of the pair be juxtaposed through the story. For instance, Zafira driven by her compassion for others, she hunts for her entire people not just for herself, and then you have Nasir who is quite literally the prince of death and is prevented from showing compassion to the people he is ordered to kill.
Faisal tells a story about love, not just romantic love but platonic love—love for one’s people, love for one’s brother, love for family by blood and the family that we choose. She delves into these concepts of love and how it can drive our actions and lives as humans. She creates this fantastical world that grips you and makes you want to read more. You root for all the characters, and even at the end, you are wishing for more.
So go read this book and its sequel because it was amazing.