The Candle and the Flame by Nafiza Azad
Publication Date: May 14th, 2019
Fatima lives in the city of Noor, a thriving stop along the Silk Road. There the music of myriad languages fills the air, and people of all faiths weave their lives together. However, the city bears scars of its recent past, when the chaotic tribe of Shayateen djinn slaughtered its entire population — except for Fatima and two other humans. Now ruled by a new maharajah, Noor is protected from the Shayateen by the Ifrit, djinn of order and reason, and by their commander, Zulfikar.
But when one of the most potent of the Ifrit dies, Fatima is changed in ways she cannot fathom, ways that scare even those who love her. Oud in hand, Fatima is drawn into the intrigues of the maharajah and his sister, the affairs of Zulfikar and the djinn, and the dangers of a magical battlefield.
Nafiza Azad weaves an immersive tale of magic and the importance of names; fiercely independent women; and, perhaps most importantly, the work for harmony within a city of a thousand cultures and cadences.
~I received this e-ARC from Edelweiss+ in exchange for an honest review!~
So I went into this book only knowing that it was a fantasy story with Muslim representation. I was HYPED… but I couldn’t help but be a little disappointed. I really really wanted to enjoy this and give it all the stars, but it just didn’t have the spark that I was waiting for. That being said, it was still enjoyable, but just not my style.
I think what really threw me off was that it was in present tense. I don’t think I’ve ever actually read a book written that way… and it seemed so strange to me! While the prologue had me intrigued, when we meet Fatima and follow her through the streets of Noor, I found myself feeling a bit detached from the story. The present tense may have made sense for the prologue, but after that it just felt foreign and confusing to me.
Other than that, my other complaint would be that the first 15-20% of the book had too much of an information dump. As much as I loved the world and the culture and the imagery (AND FOOD), the amount of information that was unloaded within those first chapters was a bit much for me. The dialogue transitioned from sounding stilted and professional but then switched to a more colloquial language seemingly at random… but it was still engaging–Honestly, I’m not sure how I felt about that.
Once I got past that, I did enjoy the characters. The Alif sisters were cute and fun and I wish I’d gotten to know them more! I was kept on my toes as we transitioned from different characters’ POVs. I liked getting into the head of the different characters, especially when the plots intertwined.
I loved the magic and the different cultures and creatures that were incorporated into the story. I have never read a story with Muslim Rep AND Shayateen (definitely a strange combination), but Nafiza Azad did a great job keeping the character’s religious feelings consistent and separate from the magic and fantasy of it all. It didn’t seem like her religion was forced or just there mentioned here or there. It was incorporated beautifully, which I really appreciated.
I do think the story itself was interesting and I can understand why most people gave it a better rating. The only reason this wasn’t rated higher was just because the writing style didn’t fit with me. The characters were interesting and the magic and the romance and drama definitely made up for this though!
I loved meeting Zulfikar(SWOON) and seeing all the delicious food– I made the very bad decision of reading this when I was hungry.. I don’t recommend that! The romance was fun and the political drama kept me on my toes for sure!
I would recommend this to anyone who likes magic, bustling cities with a mix of cultures, fierce female characters, Muslim representation, and delicious food. However, I would also say to proceed with caution if present tense and information dumping isn’t your thing. If you can get past that, the story itself is good, and the romance and feminism is definitely something worth talking about.