I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy for We Free The Stars from the author, Hafsah Faizal, and I am really grateful to her for being able to read one of my most anticipated releases of 2021 early! Here is my spoiler-free review for the e-ARC that is as unbiased as I could manage! It’s the sequel to We Hunt The Flame, one of my favorite books I read this year, and of all time! This means I had very high expectations, but I also had very specific ones that may have influenced my thoughts quite a bit. Here’s what I thought!
We Free The Stars starts where We Hunt The Flame left off, with our main characters not exactly sure what to do, which means this book starts off with a surplus of talking and discussions. In fact, a large chunk of the book is taken up by this, which one would expect to make for a boring hundred pages. That was thankfully not the case. Every character interaction kept me reading and made me infinitely more invested in these characters. The first book made me fall in love with the world, while this one made me fall in love with the characters(who I already really liked). Through these conversations and characters’ interactions with their own thoughts, I learned so much more about our heroes’ emotions, beliefs, and desires. This made the action to come later in the book all the more compelling.
Nasir and Zafira, the two main characters, had the most beautiful character arcs. Zafira’s journey brought up a question she had asked herself in We Hunt The Flame, and it was continually thought-provoking and actually really relatable. Some of her actions were genuinely shocking and were really intriguing to follow. Then there’s Nasir, who probably had the fullest and most satisfying journey, and I really appreciated the time Hafsah took on him. His development was immensely believable, which isn’t always the case with characters with high death counts that are “redeemed”. There was a small detail at the end of Nasir’s story that didn’t sit right with me, but it definitely didn’t ruin his character for me.
Shout out to two characters who really surprised me, Altair and Lana. A lot of people really loved Altair in We Hunt The Flame, and I did enjoy his character, but mainly as comic relief. There were hints that he was more, but not enough for me to adore him as much as I did Zafira, Nasir, and Deen. In We Free The Stars, Altair’s character becomes so much more rich and interesting and precious. The last characteristic especially, as the reader learns so much about his past and motivations that you really can’t help but love him and want him to just be happy. Lana, on the other hand, wasn’t a major character in the first book like Altair was. Zafira’s sister had very few page time, mainly serving as a background side-character. In this book, she gets to do a lot more, and she gets to talk a lot more. She is so innocent and pure, and I was really surprised to be so invested in a character that I almost forgot existed in We Hunt The Flame.
The middle of the book included some major turning points, and a whole lot of action. I can say confidently that it was the part of the book that I was glued to the most. The battles were so wonderfully fun and suspenseful, the stakes having never been higher. I certainly did not see events coming that happened during this section of the book.
I can’t talk about this book or the one that came before it without praising the author’s prose. Hafsah Faizal’s writing is enthralling and magical and addicting. She immerses the reader in this Ancient Arabia-inspired fantasy world so well, making you wish you never had to leave. Just as the first book had a great deal of very quotable lines, We Free The Stars’s words will leave you pondering them a while after you put the book down.
The romance bloomed beautifully in this book. While the first book mostly showed the “enemies” part of the “enemies-to-lovers” trope, this book let our two leads get to know each other well. Their relationship became so incredibly wholesome and fun to read. I found myself so very excited whenever Nasir and Zafira were just in a room together. This is honestly one of the best instances of the “enemies-to-lovers” trope I’ve ever encountered. Faizal has truly shown that she is a skilled romance writer. My only gripe with the romance was the ending, which included some unnecessary drama in my opinion and a rushed conclusion. Some might appreciate the quick ending that leaves it up top the reader’s imagination, but I personally would’ve preferred a more detailed, longer one to such an important aspect of this series.
I have very mixed feelings on the ending. There’s a big part of me saying that my critiques are just me and my specific expectations being unfair, but there’s also a part of me saying that my critiques are valid, so I’ll just mention them for my sanity. First and most important to me is the climax because… where was it? Throughout the ending, and the whole book frankly, I was waiting for a single moment that I had pictured since I was reading the first book. Both books emphasized the importance of the possibility of this event happening, and the reader was constantly reminded of it. So when it kind of passed without having much impact and without much description, I felt empty. I literally felt like a chapter was missing, like the culmination of everything was missing. Second, you know how I said the middle had some phenomenal action and was the part I was glued to the most? This sadly meant that the final battle was overshadowed by the middle one. The stakes somehow felt higher during the middle rather than the ending, which was disappointing since the ending was the finale to the whole story.
I really enjoyed reading We Free The Stars. It and We Hunt The Flame will always hold a special place in my heart right next to its predecessor. I highly recommend you check it out if you like fantasy, romance(particularly enemies-to-lovers), action, a non-Eurocentric setting, and found families!
Preorder We Free The Stars here! https://www.hafsahfaizal.com/books/we-free-the-stars