Book Review

We Free The Stars

We Free the Stars

  • Author: Hafsah Faizal
  • Genre: YA Fantasy
  • Publication Date: January 19, 2021
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Series: Sands of Arawiya #2

CONTENT WARNING: blood, death of a parent, confinement, torture, gore, violence, murder

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Darkness surged in his veins. 

Power bled from her bones.

The battle on Sharr is over. The Arz has fallen. Altair may be captive, but Zafira, Nasir, and Kifah are bound for Sultan’s Keep, determined to finish the plan Altair set in motion: restoring the hearts of the Sisters of old to the minarets of each caliphate, finally bringing magic to all of Arawiya. But they are low on resources and allies alike, and the kingdom teems with fear of the Lion of the Night’s return.

As the zumra plots to overthrow Arawiya’s darkest threat, Nasir fights to command the magic in his blood. He must learn to hone his power, to wield it against not only the Lion but his father as well, trapped under the Lion’s control. Zafira battles a very different darkness festering in her through her bond with the Jawarat—it hums with voices, pushing her to the brink of sanity and to the edge of a chaos she dares not unleash. In spite of everything, Zafira and Nasir find themselves falling into a love they can’t stand to lose … But time is running out, and if order is to be restored, drastic sacrifices will have to be made.

I’m typically the kind of reader who devours books in a ridiculously short period of time. But I just couldn’t do that with this book. It demanded to be slowly savored, rolling each word, sentence, paragraph around on my tongue like the most expensive chocolate. And by the time I finished, I was absolutely floored by Hafsah Faizal’s immense gift with words. This book is absolutely magical, and there wasn’t a single thing that I didn’t love about it. So let me count the ways I love thee:

The writing is so beautiful. Hafsah is like a miragi herself, weaving words together to create the most vivid pictures. I could visualize every single step the zumra took, and I loved reading every single word. 

“Like a veil from a crown, the sheerest silver gossamer fell over the low and ample bed, another arch at its fore, recessed and ornate. The sheets were made of starlight and dreams, darkness plentiful despite the fold of the afternoon stretching shapely rays through the decadent mashrabiya.”

The found family trope. This is one of my favorite tropes when it’s done well, and this was *chef’s kiss.* Like, peak found family trope. Most of the zumra didn’t know each other before setting out on their journey, but in this book, they’re absolutely amazing. Each member brings their own strengths and weaknesses, and they complement each other perfectly. The interactions between them were hilarious at times, and I loved seeing different sides of them.

“Sharr had bound them in a way not unlike her bond with the Jawarat: They were tethered more tightly than even family and lifelong friends could be. Circumstances had brought them together, and the wounds of the island still haunted them, clutching them in an iron fist.”

The slow-burn romance between Zafira and Nasir had me all up in my emotions. I loved how they engaged with each other, with each one filling the gaps the other had. Zafira was learning how to become softer and rely on others, and Nasir was learning how to manage emotions at all, after so many years of abuse and not having the luxury of experiencing emotions. But I absolutely loved this interaction:

“‘It’s beautiful,’ she murmured, and standing here beside her, he agreed. The moon crowned her in starlight and cloaked her in magic. The stars faded in envy of her radiance. There truly was nothing—no one—more beautiful.”

There was so. much. action. I had no idea what was going to happen next, and there were so many plot twists that I never saw coming. I was on the edge of my seat for literally the entire time that I was reading the book, with the crew trying to use the hearts to restore magic, fight against the Lion, rescue Altair, control their abilities, manage emotions, and navigate their new circumstances. In addition, old characters come back into the picture and Zafira has to fight against the influence of the Jawarat. In short, there was so much going on that I was always on the edge of my seat. This is one of those rare books that has no boring parts.

“Lana didn’t know about the Jawarat’s vision and the force of Zafira’s newfound rage. About how it seemed to be draining the good out of her, leaving only the vilest paths to follow.”

If you haven’t read this series, you are certainly missing out. Because this is amazing and Hafsah Faizal is one of the most talented authors I’ve ever read. Her ability to incorporate her culture into the story was wonderful, and I finished this series feeling as though I learned so much in addition to being entertained and taken on an incredible journey. I can’t wait to get my hands on her next book!

People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn’t an upper limit.

Gasp Factor: 21

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