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We Hunt the Flame: Sands of Arawiya, Book 1

Book review by
Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media
We Hunt the Flame: Sands of Arawiya, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Intriguing, sometimes confusing fantasy with Arabian flare.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Words in Arabic to discover here: azizi, hayati, yalla, and many more. Plus words for rulers, bad guys, and mythical creatures that have ancient Arabian origins: caliph/a, hashashin, ifrit.

Positive Messages

Love brings life purpose. Redemption and goodness are possible, especially when you invite friendship, love, and empathy.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Zafira hides who she is at the beginning of the book -- a huntress instead of a hunter -- because men fear that women with power and magic are bad luck. But she begins to reveal herself and accept her powers and her calling to save others. Nasir believes he's just an evil assassin until he begins to feel for those around him.

Violence

Many throats slit, one in an assassination, others after battling evil shape-shifting spirits called ifrit -- it's the only way they stay dead. The death of two characters close to the main character, and a scene of torture with a hot poker to the chest (with scars on the back of a man from a whole childhood of the same torture). Skirmishes with arrows, knives, and scimitars with some injuries. A bar brawl with fists thrown. A boy is whipped. Repeated mentions of a tongue cut out, of a mother's death, a father's madness that led to his family killing him in self-defense. Talk of a village burned down and many dying from chemical weapons.

Sex

Passionate kissing doesn't last long. A group of women found in a man's palace room in the morning. Story of a female servant seeking out a royal in his bedroom and kissing him, with hints of more. Innuendo and joking about exploits.

Language

"Bastard" repeated a few times.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Scene in a bar with everyone imbibing but main characters.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that We Hunt the Flame is the start of a fantasy-romance series by first-time author and Muslim American woman Hafsah Faizal. It takes place in a fictitious land, but incorporates some fantasy elements from the ancient Arabian tradition -- like the shape-shifting, evil ifrits. You'll also learn a little Arabic. The main characters -- one, a huntress named Zafira and the other, a trained assassin and prince named Nasir -- head for a cursed island where they meet lots of ifrits and worse. There are many fights with arrows, knives, and scimitars with the death of two people close to the main characters and throats slit. There's a scene of torture with a hot poker with talk of a character enduring a childhood of the same thing. There are also repeated mentions of a tongue cut out, of a mother's death, a father's madness that led to his family killing him in self-defense, and talk of a village burned down and many dying from chemical weapons. Other mature content involves a brief bout of passionate kissing and innuendo. Zafira grows from someone who hides who she is to someone who embraces her power and her identity. Nasir begins to open his heart and see himself as something other than a monster.

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What's the story?

In WE HUNT THE FLAME, Zafira is the only one in her starving village who can hunt in the Arz, a cursed forest that swallows up more land every day. She helps feed her people in secret, pretending to be a man, because being a woman with power is considered bad luck ever since six ruling sisters mysteriously disappeared with all the world's magic 90 years before. When a silver witch appears with a quest to look for the lost magic, Zafira can't pass up the chance. The quest will take her far beyond the Arz, across the Baransea, and to the Sharr, an island that imprisoned dark magic in the time of the six sisters. No one expects her to come back alive, least of all the Sultan to the north, who sends his son Nasir, a trained assassin, to find the famed hunter and bring the lost magic to him.

Is it any good?

There are so many cool flourishes to this debut author's ancient Arabia-inspired fantasy world that you can forgive the parts of the story that confuse or could use more polish. Magical elements, immortal beings, places, and the folklore of the Arawiya aren't always presented clearly for the reader -- you'll consult the map at the front of the book to center yourself far more than you normally would -- but this world will still draw you in. So will the main characters, Zafira and Nasir. When it's clear they'll be on the same quest, you'll be anxious for them to meet and for the arrows and knives -- and, eventually, sparks -- to fly.

The island and the forest can think and feel, which is cool-- they're possibly malevolent, but not entirely. The chilling landscape draws both the main characters in for very different reasons and all its shadowy features add to the tension. So do the shapeshifting ifrit that dredge up the characters' struggles with loss and longing. The climactic action will confuse readers again with some last-minute realizations about what they're looking for and how to acquire it, but the setup for the sequel is exactly what's needed to tease up a new fan base.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the ancient Arabian influence in We Hunt the Flame. How is the clothing of the characters described? What else feels culturally distinctive? What feels familiar?

  • The forest is a common bad omen in fairy tales and folklore around the world. What does it represent here?

  • Will you read the next in the series? What character's storyline are you looking forward to most?

Book details

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