This will be a short, “rant” ish post, mainly meant to justify my not finishing the book We Hunt the Flame. When I picked it up from the library two months ago, I was hoping for an epic fantasy in the veins of An Ember in the Ashes. In all of two months trying to read a chapter a night, I never got past half of it. Maybe it’s the business of college, but maybe this book is just not completely great.
- I think the Middle Eastern elements were much more expanded in this book than An Ember in the Ashes, and there was a place for it. The linguistics were especially pleasing.
- Some of the characters are dynamic and even enjoyable, like Nasir’s friend Altair.
That being said, a couple of core issues stopped me from finishing the book.
- Though the worldbuilding is strong in linguistic terms, the way it’s done in plot and mythological-background is just confusing. The Arz and Sharr and the Compass and the silvery goddesses floated around meaninglessly in my head the whole time. I was unable to connect the elaborate backstories to the meaning of the plot.
- I can’t stand the main character. At first, Zafira was tolerable and almost even likable, under an unfair patriarchal system that made me feel sympathetic, but as soon as the Sharr plot began, I couldn’t stand her. She irritated me to death because of her all too familiar, “I’m too noble to kill attackers” and Mary Jane ability to beat enemies far more experienced than her and all because–surprise!–her latent magical powers are arising! It’s supposed to explain everything but it just feels annoying.
Overall, with Zafira’s characterization, it felt like the author couldn’t decide whether to realistically portray a woman’s place in an early patriarchal society or enact a self insert avatar into a fantasy world where she could resist this oppression. Either are okay, but the indecision resulted in a character who grated on my nerves and a plot that plodded along slower than molasses. I may change my mind and finish this in the future, but until then, these are my (10pm) thoughts.