we free the stars book review! // that was quite the finale…

Hi friends! It is with great pride that I announce that I actually finished a series in record time! Okay, so maybe it’s technically a duology but it didn’t take me my usual period of six months to two years to undocumented time blocks so I’m pretty happy about that. With that being said, let’s jump right into it! My review of the first book We Hunt The Flame is up in case you’re curious about the series but not so keen on spoilers for the first book (yes please be aware that this review is discussing the first book’s events).

TW/CW: Torture, abuse, animal death, murder

The battle on Sharr is over. The dark forest has fallen. Altair may be captive, but Zafira, Nasir, and Kifah are bound for Sultan’s Keep, determined to finish the plan he set in motion: restoring the hearts of the Sisters of Old to the minarets of each caliphate, and finally returning 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.

oh gosh.

I’m not entirely sure what to say. We Free The Stars was so, so close to being downright fantastic. It follows right after the events of We Hunt The Flame.

Zafira takes an interesting role in this one. As the Jawarat begins communicating with her, Zafira starts spiraling. I adored the commentary on women and the utterly unfair sexism they often have to deal with. There’s a moment where you almost want to cheer for the revenge being enacted, for the justice playing out, except for one thing: wrong is still wrong. Watching Zafira struggle with and against herself when it came to sexism was a really potent addition to both her character and the plot itself.

Nasir and Altair made me smile so freaking much. I adore the found family trope and discovering that they were brothers only made their banter so much more layered. I especially loved that we got to read from Altair’s perspective! When one of them was going through an emotionally charged event, the other’s reaction was one of my favorite aspects to read about. They truly do remind me of the sun and moon: total opposites but the individual strength of each one is perfectly accentuated by the other.

The other characters in this book shone through as well. Kifah was amazing, as always. Hafsah Faizal is an actual genius for the way she wrote so many different relationships throughout the book. She allows for quiet moments to often trump the louder ones, and that adds so much nuance to countless characters.

and yes, the romance did break me.

The last 30 pages? Absolutely soul-shattering. I think that Faizal is at her best when she’s writing the sentences that are meant to just hit you. The sentences created out of thin air that rock your world.

“They say the soul cannot rest until it finds its match. Then it ignites.”

I felt as if the first book didn’t center as much around the development of the romance as I wanted. In this book, however, I think we got to see more of the sparks around Zafira and Nasir’s relationship.

Also! The Arabian influences! I can’t express with words how incredibly natural this world feels. I do wish there was a glossary contained in the back because I was doing quite a bit of googling haha. This duology is but one example of why we need more POC voices in literature: the worldbuilding was rich, lush, and unique while the cast of characters was effortlessly diverse. And that’s ONE example.

Okay so…my biggest qualm with this book? It’s far, far too much like the first. I was hoping that since this wasn’t a debut, the plot would move quicker and we wouldn’t be as entrenched in the internal monologues of our dear main characters. I was um…wrong*. It doesn’t help that this is a nearly 600 page book. So many paragraphs were spent lazily traversing the minds of Zafira and Nasir. Their every emotion, every mental blockade was pondered upon. That…might not be a real sentence. Anyways, it often made this story feel absolutely glacial in terms of plot progression because oh my gosh you’re all brooding! Again! Please stop being hens!

*enjoy this moment. it’s more likely for cloud strife to become a unicorn and jump over cotton candy clouds than for me to admit that i’m wrong. (okay that’s not technically true but still. also yes, i did just reference final fantasy vii)

Overall, I did enjoy this duology. Is it a favorite? No. Is it a solid YA fantasy from an author that has great potential? Yes! I’d give this a solid 4/5 stars. Tell me: Have you read this duology? Do you want to?

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