ARC Review: The Candle and the Flame by Nafiza Azad // Rich Asian Fantasy with Beautiful Writing and Fierce Characters!

There’s nothing I love more than Asian fantasy!!

(Asian FOOD is the only exception I’ll make—and this book has that as well.)

Today I’m here with a list of all the things I loved (and the few things I didn’t) about The Candle and the Flame!! I first heard of this book months ago and knew I had to read it. It sounded amazing from the start (djinn! Silk Road! magic!), and then the gorgeous cover was released, and my excitement for it increased tenfold.

I genuinely mean it when I say that if my review doesn’t manage to convince you to pick this up, the cover will, because LOOK AT IT.

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Nafiza Azad || May 14, 2019

★★★★☆ [3.5]

The Candle and the FlameFatima 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.

Thank you to the author and Scholastic for sending me an advance copy in exchange for an honest review! This did not affect my opinions in any way.

All quotes were taken from an unfinished copy and may differ in final publication.

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  • I adored the main character, Fatima Ghazala. She grew so much throughout the book and she was so fiery (both literally and metaphorically). I thought she was a strong character, both when it came to her development and her personality, and I loved reading about her!
  • The themes of empowerment, specifically female empowerment, were so amazing? In this world, there’s a lot of misogyny, but it’s always called out, and seeing all the women in this book be so strong and fierce was definitely a highlight. I mean, Fatima Ghazala pretty much burned someone for harassing and touching her inappropriately. I would like to request the rights to be that powerful!!
  • Other themes I loved included the importance placed on family and friends. I’m a sucker for any kind of strong familial bond, and as is expected of an Asian book, there were many in this one! I loved Fatima Ghazala’s relationship with her sister, and especially with her elders, and I thought her fun friendship with the Alif sisters added a nice contrast to the other heavier content.

berry 2 “Only monsters kill without regard to the life they are taking. You are not a monster.”

  • The writing was absolutely gorgeous. Though it was a little hard to get into at first, it was still so beautiful, and Azad’s descriptions of pretty much just everything (ESPECIALLY the food) were so enticingly written.
  • Through Azad’s expert writing, I fell in love with the city of Noor. It’s extremely immersive, and the fantastic blend of people and cultures made for the Ultimate fantasy setting. Plus Silk Road-inspired!!! I don’t need to say anymore.
  • I also liked the romance!! I will admit that it was a little, uhhhh, insta-lovey, BUT it was written in a way that I was still able to care about it and like it and not just be completely annoyed by it (which happens all too often).
  • I wasn’t expecting how dark it got sometimes?? It wasn’t horribly gruesome and violent (although you should still check CWs at the end of my review just in case!), but there were some instances where it got dark and I LOVED IT.
  • (I also loved the tiny part where Sunaina said no man would ever feel right to marry… WLW SOLIDARITY!!! I have high expectations for her and a certain someone based on that ending.)

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  • I think my biggest issue (and why I took off a half star) with this book was that I had no idea what Fatima Ghazala was trying to achieve in this book, and as a result, the plot was kind of just all over the place. There was no one big climax (at least, one that I could see), and while Fatima Ghazala’s character develops so much, I just didn’t see her goal throughout the book and that threw me off.
  • I also think that while the writing was absolutely gorgeous and full of beautiful descriptions, it was also a little heavy and dense, at least in the beginning. It got much easier to read the further you get in the book, but the first 70 pages or so were definitely a bit of a struggle for me to read quickly.
  • And finally, it’s a minor thing, but the end of the book left me vaguely unsatisfied. I think that it wrapped up nicely, but because of the whole missing character goal and climax, I just felt like there was something more to come, and there wasn’t.

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I think that while it may take some time to get into the book at first, it is definitely worth the read. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, and while I may have had issues with character motives, I loved the characters themselves and immersed myself in this beautiful world.

⇒ check out a quick overview of my thoughts in the graphic below!

:: rep :: all-Asian cast, Muslim MC + other major side characters, probably queer major side character (not explicit)

:: content warnings :: death (of loved ones and in general), murder (including beheading), depictions of grief, burning

shall we chat

are you planning on reading this book? have you read any other silk road-inspired books? and what are some of your favorite asian fantasies???

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18 thoughts on “ARC Review: The Candle and the Flame by Nafiza Azad // Rich Asian Fantasy with Beautiful Writing and Fierce Characters!

  1. Great review for this book May, and I’m glad you enjoyed it as well (the positives in your review definitely outweigh the negatives!) I’ve seen a lot of The Candle and the Flame around but until now I didn’t know what it was about, well now I have to add it to my TBR list. 😀 I love that one of your positives was the family and friend relationships (I’m a sucker for any book with well developed family and friend relationships) and I think even though one of your negatives was the heavy and dense writing that shouldn’t bother me. If I’m in the right mood the heavier and dense the better! 🙂
    Great review. 🙂 ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Beth!! I’m glad I could bring more of what the book’s about to your attention ❤ And yes, definitely, the family and friend aspect of the book played such a big part and I really appreciated it! And I'm glad you love heavy and dense writing — I've never gotten used to it, even though I've read many books with it! 😅💗

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s all right. 🙂 ❤️ Yeah I mean I need to be in the mood for heavy writing, if not I’ll struggle to get into the story, but every so often it’s just what I need and I guess next time I am in the mood for a book like that I’ll have to keep this one in mind. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. This is such a lovely review, May! I don’t usually read fantasy but every time I do it turns out to be amazing, so I think I should take that as a hint to read it more often…so I’ll definitely be reading this as soon as I can. 😉 I LOVE descriptions and the Silk Road-inspired culture blend sounds so amazing to read about. Also, female empowerment!!

    Again, great post, thank you for the recommendation. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah thank you so much, Olivia! And haha I definitely get not reading fantasy as much (I’ve been reading pretty much only fantasy for the past month and I need a change haha). And ah you’re so sweet!! The Silk Road-inspired culture blend was absolutely amazing to read about ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Ahh I love this little graphic, it looks amazing!! 🙂
    Your review is wonderful and makes me so, so curious about this book, the writing, the main character and the world it’s set in, just as well, I might have to check it out! I’m always a little nervous when the writing is a bit dense, because I’m scared to, well, not be able to fully immerse myself into the story somehow. I’d love to give this one a try though 🙂
    Thank you for this lovely review! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aahh thank you so much!! I loved making the graphic so I’m glad to hear that ❤ And I feel you so much on dense writing — it often prevents me from being fully engrossed in the story a lot. But with this book I was able to get through it and enjoy what I was reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Love this review! Bummer to heard about the unfocused plot & dense writing, but I’m still excited to pick this book up and read about Fatima’s awesomeness! Funny enough, I actually just got a notification that this book came in for me at the library! Excuse me now while I go run off to pick it up…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I also thought that this was such a culturally immersive read. I actually liked Bhayva (spelling?) better than Fatima, but really enjoyed the characters. I think I liked Fatima more before she was Fatima Ghazala. I felt like it was pretty slow paced, but I did really enjoy it. We seem to have pretty similar thoughts about this one!

    Liked by 1 person

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