Summary : Azad’s debut YA fantasy is set in a city along the Silk Road that is a refuge for those of all faiths, where a young woman is threatened by the war between two clans of powerful djinn.
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.
The Candle and the Flame by Nafiza Azad is a Muslim YA high fantasy novel of 416 pages. In this captivating tale, women rule! We have Fatima, a foodie, who is a human girl whose life has been saved by a djinn woman consumed by an unfathomable grief. By the same token, the djinn woman bestows/transfers her powers (fire) to the main character who is unaware of this as she grows up in a city where ifrit djinns and humans cohabitate peacefully.
Fatima has a non-blood related sister who is a makeup and perfume chemist. She uses plants and flowers to make her cosmetics which catch the attention of rich folks including the rajkumari; the princess. Fatima’s sister also constantly abuses her verbally but she loves Fatima in her own ways. In time, Fatima stands up to her and their relationship finally takes on a mutual respect aspect.
When peace in Noor is threatened by double-agents, game of thrones advocates and greedy humans and djinns, the strong women in Azad’s novel find themselves making the necessary hits needed to keep the peace between the people of Noor and the whole country; a necessary evil that they try to forgive themselves for. Now while Azad shows that there are strong women in this world, she also shows that women can also be the enemies of other women by enabling patriarchs and perverts who have no respect for women’s bodies and leading abilities. The strong women in this tale deal ruthlessly with these traitors of the gender because it comes down to survival of the fittest.
On the bright side, Fatima’s besties are the Alif sisters. Their names start with the letter Alif if you’re wondering why the gang and cryptic name. Anyway, these girls are colorful and fun! One of them is boy crazy about the easy on the eyes Bilal—the muezzin. She enthusiastically declares that he can call her to salat anytime! However, the reality is that she drags her feet when it’s time for salat. She made me grin in the whole book.
Now, let’s discuss Zulfikar; the other main character and the emir of the city of Noor. He is an ifrit djinn who is Muslim. He is beautiful and makes heads turn. Even one of the Hindu royals of the city has her eyes set on him to gain her freedom from her overbearing family.
Zulfikar is friend with Fatima’s teacher; a thriving ifrit bookseller in appearance who doesn’t like selling his books. I related to him on this matter. Anyway, when he has to say good bye to Fatima unexpectedly, he grants her his abilities as a djinn unbeknownst to her. This new status sends her in a senseless state and to prevent her from hurting herself, Zulfikar intervenes out of necessity to help her keep her wits. He gives her some of his fire to calm her down, and he comforts her.
You see, like humans pick up on vibes, djinns in this tale pick up on the shape and the uniqueness of your fire. The only problem with what Zulfiqar did is that helping Fatima has consequences that he can’t reverse even though it was the right decision to make in the moment. He bonded himself to Fatima; a bond that is only permitted by marriage. A paranormal romance blooms between Fatima and Zulfiqar and they are not sure if they can trust it since it’s the result of an artificial intercession; a life and death matter.
Will they realize that what they feel for each other could be real or is real? Will Bilal reciprocate the Alif sister’s feelings? Or will he have the hots for another sister in the gang? Will blood be shed? Will they be cat fights between Fatima and the royal when they come face-to-face?
Read to find out!
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ ⭐
Read an interview with Nafiza Azad here.