Publisher: Melia Publishing Services LTD
Release Date: May 14, 2019
People lived because she killed. People died because he lived.
Zafira is the Hunter, disguising herself as a man when she braves 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 sultan. If Zafira was exposed as a girl, all of her achievements would be rejected; if Nasir displayed his compassion, his father would punish him in the most brutal of ways. Both Zafira and Nasir are legends in the kingdom of Arawiyabut neither wants to be.
War is brewing, and the Arz sweeps closer with each passing day, engulfing the land in shadow. When Zafira embarks on a quest to uncover a lost artifact that can restore magic to her suffering world and stop the Arz, Nasir is sent by the sultan on a similar mission: retrieve the artifact and kill the Hunter. But an ancient evil stirs as their journey unfoldsand the prize they seek may pose a threat greater than either can imagine.
ROMANTIC ORIENTATION: heteroromantic
TROPES: enemies forced to work together, tragic backstories
TAGS: high fantasy, Arabic inspired, Muslim author, young adult
WARNINGS: violence, death, blood, misogyny, life-and-death road trip through a hostile magical world, cis woman disguising herself as a man/cross dressing
That’s what I wrote down in my review notes for this book. Mngh.
The thing is I got this book because the cover was so stunning and I was incredibly intrigued by the blurb when I first saw it. And I wanted to love this book fiercely and with all my heart. Unfortunately I didn’t, and I can’t even tell you exactly why.
It was a good read, it just never came close to my (admittedly huge) expectations and hopes. The writing was solid, magical and lush in some places even. I loved the important role of food in this, as well as the themes of familial bonds and complicated family dynamics. I got into the story well enough and some of the angst and struggles surrounding the main characters got me emotionally invested.
It just kept… fizzling out around the edges. I enjoyed it but didn’t get hooked. I got invested, but the emotional investment never lasted long enough to completely fall into the story. I could see the romantic subplot, but never fell down the rabbit hole and rooted for them, because it was just not well enough developed for me.
The book really only picked up for me in the last third of the book, and I did love the ending. Especially as it made me so hungry for the sequel and to see where the story goes from there. But overall I wasn’t as wooed as I’d hoped I’d be, partly because my hopes for this book were enormous. I enjoyed, I will read the sequel, I just didn’t love it.
On a side note, one reason why I was also apprehensive about this story was the premise of Zafira dressing as a man to go unnoticed as the Hunter. There is… a special apprehension that always twists up my stomach whenever a cis author writes this trope of “disguised as another binary gender as a deception for reason xyz”. There just is, I can’t help it. I can honestly say this part of the story was not… addressed in a queer way? Well, I mean. Her need to hide as a woman who hunts is, and why it is important for her to not be recognized as a woman when she hunts in a deeply misogynistic society. But the rest of it is not existent in this book. There is no talk about queerness, gender identities vs. gender roles and presentation, no discussion of any gender outside of the cis binary. Which can be a relief for some, an extra ounce of erasure for others. It was a non-issue for me because I didn’t expect anything else, I didn’t think this would be acknowledged in any way because it rarely ever is. I just wanted to mention it because I know some of my followers have been apprehensive about the same thing and sometimes it is good to know going in what to expect on the gender front.
2.5 stars rounded to 3
Hafsah Faizal is the New York Times bestselling author of WE HUNT THE FLAME and WE FREE THE STARS. She’s the founder of IceyDesigns, where she creates websites for authors and beauteous goodies for everyone else. When she’s not writing, she can be found dreaming up her next design, deciding between Assassin’s Creed and Skyrim, or traversing the world. Born in Florida and raised in California, she now resides in Texas with her family and a library of books waiting to be devoured.