Today I’m so excited to bring to you two reviews in one (double the trouble!) with my thoughts on both Hafsah Faizal’s YA fantasy debut, We Hunt the Flame, and Uzma Jalaluddin’s adult romance, Ayesha at Last!
Both are by Muslim authors–although Faizal’s is inspired by Ancient Arabia, not Islam–so it’s fitting I smoosh them together!
I won’t delay you much longer–but let me know what you think of these books if you’ve read them in the comments below!
We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal
OKAY OKAY OKAY—can I just say, WOW?
I admit I had a bit of a shaky start with this book, and I didn’t really get into reading it until my finished copy came, but WOW. I ended up enjoying this a lot—I even read it during my high school graduation! (Staying on brand, y’all.)
I totally know that there are people out there who will not like this. Despite its widespread hype, I feel like We Hunt the Flame performs best with a very specific audience (one who really loves epic/high fantasy novels)!
I still ended up loving it, but I definitely had to be in the right mood to read. Still, it was a blast once I got to the end.
One of my favorite parts were the zumra and all the character relationships!
By the end of the novel, I totally adored the whole cast. I’d seen the character cards before I started reading, although I didn’t know who was who in the cards initially, by the end of the novel, I could say all their names by heart and match them to the character cards.
Because each member of the zumra was so memorable, and I was totally in love with them. They were fierce and they were not all happy to be working together, but that’s what made them so loveable. Even though only Nasir & Zafira were the narration points of views, we still got a really unique take on each of the characters, and they were distinct and their own individual selves.
As for Nasir and Zafira’s relationship, ooh! I love a good slow burn. Faizal really held out on us for so long, and I just adored their dynamic. I’m a sucker for romance.
Overall, all the characters were just so bright and unique and individual that I couldn’t help but adore reading about them.
The worldbuilding was rich—although I think a lot of people might not like this.
Faizal has a very specific worldbuilding and narration style, and although it’s not flowery, it’s also not succinct or straightforward.
I think a lot of people might have trouble adjusting and they’ll be confused about the caliphates and the power structure within the world.
However, I personally adapted to it, and I could tell you different characteristics about the story. Still, I think reading We Hunt the Flame is something that requires attention and focus—not an easy read that you can just float away with. I was present the whole way through, and that’s a really important element of reading this.
Oof. My heart. I can’t believe that cliffhanger AND HOW COULD THEY [REDACTED].
I really want the sequel now just so I can find out what happened to [redacted]. Ugh.
By the end of the novel, I really was in love with this. I’d give the second half a solid five, the first 100 pages a 3, and the rest of it a 4. The ending was just so good, especially now that I knew and understood the characters and the roles they played.
Overall, I’d definitely recommend to fantasy lovers—and stick with it!
I think not everyone is going to love We Hunt the Flame. People who are going to focus on reading (active reading vs. passive reading, maybe?) and who are interested in fantasy and who stick with it will enjoy this, I think.
If you’re looking for a light and easy read, maybe take a pass on this. But if you want something a little tougher with a bigger payback, definitely check out We Hunt the Flame.
Thank you so much to Hafsah Faizal for providing me with a digital review copy in exchange for an honest review!
Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin
I am honestly super regretful that I didn’t write this review sooner because I have mixed feelings about this book.
There were things that I liked, and things that I didn’t like, but overall I wouldn’t completely diss this book. I’d been really excited since the announcement of it publishing in Canada (once it published I tried to get it from my e-library, but they didn’t have it), and when it made its way to the US, I got really excited and was lucky enough to be able to read early.
I had no idea it was based off of Pride and Prejudice until after I read I, but now I see the connection and it makes this story all the cuter.
If we start with the positives . . .
Obviously the romance was sweet & I was fully on board with the ship.
I don’t think it’s possible for me to like a romance novel if I don’t like the ship (but maybe I’m be proven wrong one day).
I thought Ayesha and Khalid were such a cute ship, and I totally adored the slow burn. Sloooow burn. The tension was great and it just built up and up and up—especially when Hafsa is thrown into the mix.
There is FAMILY DRAMA and I low-key lived for the boisterousness of the family—especially with Hafsa’s antics and reading it all from Ayesha’s point of view.
The interactions when Ayesha and Khalid were just together, even if they didn’t want to be, created some really spicy moments . . .
So definitely a recommend of the romance element in this—wait for it—romance novel!
One of my biggest qualms was just the pacing, partly because of some of the plot points.
This is where things start to get a little so-so for me. I totally love the concept and the story, even the bits I’ll talk about later on, but some of the pacing was a bit awkward for me.
I felt like it was well-paced for the first half, but once we got to the second half and some things, things got a bit less well-structured for me?
I don’t know if it was just a me-reading-wrong issue, or something else, but in the second half, it felt kind of rushed, especially near the end. More tangible plot points (not necessarily romantic ones, but things happening in Ayesha and Khalid’s lives) started coming into play, and it felt a little bit . . . out there?
Some things just required a bit of a imagination from the readers to feel like the characters would do certain things or react certain ways. It’s hard for me to talk about without spoiling, but some of the plot points seemed a little bit extra, and it was because of these—what feels like to me at least—out of character actions by the characters, which required me to make that mental stretch to believe.
And once again, it could just be me! But I think there were just some things in the second half that were a bit weird in the scope of the story, and it messed with the pacing. There was just a lot going on, and it was hopping around the plot points pretty quickly.
(I also think it’s good to note that it could have been on account of Jalaluddin trying to make this fit the Pride and Prejudice mold, but I can’t be sure because I’ve never read Pride and Prejudice).
Overall, I’d recommend this to anyone who . . .
- loves a good slowburn romance,
- wants awesome #OwnVoices Muslim rep
- enjoys Pride & Prejudice
- wants ALL the family drama
Although this wasn’t the perfect read for me, I’d definitely be willing to reread at a later date because of both the couple and the story.
Thank you so much to Berkley Books and Netgalley for providing me with a digital review copy in exchange for an honest review!
Zafira hunts to feed her people in the cursed forest of the Arz–a place where no one should be able to return from, but she can.
Nasir is the Prince of Death, acting as his father’s assassin.
When Zafira, Nasir, and others embark on a quest to restore magic and stop the Arz with a lost artifact, each going for their own purposes and with their own intents, they’ll discover something much larger brewing beneath the surface.
Ayesha wants to be a poet, but her teaching job is helping her pay off her debts while she lives with her boisterous Muslim family. Her flighty younger cousin, Hafsa, has rejected multiple marriage proposals, while Ayesha firmly believes for herself that she doesn’t want an arranged marriage.
Until she meets Khalid. Who is smart and handsome but also judgemental and conservative. Ayesha is torn between her feelings for Khalid and the gossip within her family, leading her to deal with both the rumors and the truths about herself.