We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal – Great Ideas, but Shallow Execution

Text: We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal.

Blurb:

People lived because she killed.
People died because he lived.

Zafira is the Hunter, disguising herself as a man when she braves the cursed forest of the Arz to feed her people. Nasir is the Prince of Death, assassinating those foolish enough to defy his autocratic father, the king. If Zafira was exposed as a girl, all of her achievements would be rejected; if Nasir displayed his compassion, his father would punish him in the most brutal of ways.

Both are legends in the kingdom of Arawiya—but neither wants to be.

War is brewing, and the Arz sweeps closer with each passing day, engulfing the land in shadow. When Zafira embarks on a quest to uncover a lost artifact that can restore magic to her suffering world and stop the Arz, Nasir is sent by the king on a similar mission: retrieve the artifact and kill the Hunter. But an ancient evil stirs as their journey unfolds—and the prize they seek may pose a threat greater than either can imagine.

CW’s review:

Picture me heaving a deep sigh. That’s me right now, having finished reading We Hunt the Flame and now having to review it. Despite its promises to be a sweeping YA fantasy and a compelling story about two very different characters that fall into the same journey and destiny despite being enemies, I didn’t feel that the book delivered. Unfortunately the ideas of We Hunt the Flame were wonderful and riveting, but its execution was lacking. And I’m incredibly disappointed, because I so wanted to love this book. The truth is, however, I just simply did not.

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Moonstruck, Volume 1: Magic to Brew by Grace Ellis and Shae Beagle – Cute But Somewhat Confusing

Text: Moonstruck by Grace Ellis, Shae Beagle. Image: A brown girl with dark brown natural hair and a light brown skin with blonde hair, sitting across from each other.

Blurb:

In the little college town of Blitheton, fantasy creatures live cozy, normal lives right alongside humans, and werewolf barista Julie strives to be the most normal of all. But all heck breaks loose when she and her new girlfriend Selena go on a disastrous first date that ends with a magician casting a horrible spell on their friend Chet. Now it’s up to the team of mythical pals to stop the illicit illusionist before it’s too late!

Joce’s review:

The first volume of MOONSTRUCK is divided into five different issues, focusing on the main character, Julie, who is a werewolf and plus-sized Latinx woman. She is in a relationship with Selena, who is a werewolf and Black woman. Julie is a barista at the Black Cat Cafe in a small college town where she works with her best friend Chet. Chet’s gender identity is never explicitly stated, but they use they/them pronouns, and at one point, a male character and Chet show romantic interest in one another. Throughout the story, we meet different creatures, animals, and spirits who live in Blitheton, including Dorian the magician, whose magic show Julie and Selena go to for their first date and who casts a spell on Chet.

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Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan – A Brilliant Asian Fantasy That Explores Trauma, Loss & Oppressive Systems [An Analysis?]

Text: Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan.

Blurb:

Each year, eight beautiful girls are chosen as Paper Girls to serve the king. It’s the highest honor they could hope for…and the most cruel.

But this year, there’s a ninth girl. And instead of paper, she’s made of fire.

In this lush fantasy, Lei is a member of the Paper caste, the lowest and most oppressed class in Ikhara. She lives in a remote village with her father, where the decade-old trauma of watching her mother snatched by royal guards still haunts her. Now, the guards are back, and this time it’s Lei they’re after–the girl whose golden eyes have piqued the king’s interest.

Over weeks of training in the opulent but stifling palace, Lei and eight other girls learn the skills and charm that befit being a king’s consort. But Lei isn’t content to watch her fate consume her. Instead, she does the unthinkable–she falls in love. Her forbidden romance becomes enmeshed with an explosive plot that threatens the very foundation of Ikhara, and Lei, still the wide-eyed country girl at heart, must decide just how far she’s willing to go for justice and revenge.

CW’s review:

Girls of Paper and Fire was on everyone’s most anticipated book releases in 2018, and the book is now an effortless favourite among many readers – with good reason. Ngan’s Girls of Paper and Fire is a young-adult fantasy, set in Ikhara, a world inspired by Malaysian culture. It follows Lei, a girl of the lowest caste who is taken from her home to become a Paper Girl: one of eight girls chosen to serve the King. Despite the opulence and privileges afforded to Paper Girls, Lei refuses to accept the injustices enacted by the Demon King and refuses that her future as Paper Girl is her ultimate fate. Thus, she does the unthinkable: she falls in love. This is a provocative, heavy, emotional, and brilliant story about trauma, autonomy, assault, and oppression.

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BLOG TOUR: Not Your Backup by C.B. Lee – Expectedly Light-Hearted and Unexpectedly Critical; Featuring The Queer Latinx Heroine We’ve All Been Waiting For

Text: C.B. Lee, Not Your Backup; Sidekick Squad Blog Tour! 27th May - 7th May. Image: A brown teen with short dark brown hair in mid-jump.

“Friend! Today is finally the day!”

Xiaolong looks particularly excited today, and you don’t blame her. Today is the first day of the Sidekick Squad blog tour (you know this, because Xiaolong has been reminding you for days now!) and it is her first time organising such a big and important event!

Xiaolong the axolotl, holding up a copy of NOT YOUR BACKUP by C.B. Lee and smiling“There will be friends visiting the Pond today and I want to look my best.” She stands a little straighter, magicks a copy of Not Your Backup, and gives you her best pose. “Friend, I’m feeling a little nervous. Do you think I can practice my pitch of this book with you?”

You happily agree. She does look a little nervous, but you know that she just needs a little encouragement.

She clears her throat with an ‘ahem!’ and raises the book up to show you. “Friend, you know how much I love the Sidekick Squad series! And oh my, this third book was everything that I wanted! I mean, it has action, there’s friendship, there’s even some exploration about love and attraction and romance and identity! I just loved it.”

You give her an encouraging nod and tell her that she’s doing good so far! Xiaolong seems to relax at your assurances, and gives you a big smile.

“Well, friend, since you have me started, I want to tell you more about this book! So, Not Your Backup is so awesome because…”

Foreword and gratitude

Three years ago, I read a book that changed my life.

That book was Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee. Not Your Sidekick was one of the first books where I saw myself represented; it was the first time I had felt seen. Reading Jess’s struggle with her diaspora identity struck such a deep chord within me, and I’ve been in love with the Sidekick Squad series and its wonderful characters ever since.

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Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston – The 2020 Presidency We All Need

Text: Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston. Image: on the left, a man with light-brown skin with brown hair, wearing a white shirt and blue slacks crossing his arms and leaning to his right; on the right, a white man with light brown hair, wearing a red and royal military uniform, and black slacks, crossing his arms and leaning to the left.
Blurb:

What happens when America’s First Son falls in love with the Prince of Wales?

When his mother became President, Alex Claremont-Diaz was promptly cast as the American equivalent of a young royal. Handsome, charismatic, genius―his image is pure millennial-marketing gold for the White House. There’s only one problem: Alex has a beef with the actual prince, Henry, across the pond. And when the tabloids get hold of a photo involving an Alex-Henry altercation, U.S./British relations take a turn for the worse.

Heads of family, state, and other handlers devise a plan for damage control: staging a truce between the two rivals. What at first begins as a fake, Instagramable friendship grows deeper, and more dangerous, than either Alex or Henry could have imagined. Soon Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret romance with a surprisingly unstuffy Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations and begs the question: Can love save the world after all? Where do we find the courage, and the power, to be the people we are meant to be? And how can we learn to let our true colors shine through? Casey McQuiston’s Red, White & Royal Blue proves: true love isn’t always diplomatic.

Joce’s Review:

RED, WHITE, AND ROYAL BLUE takes place in a United States, where, following Obama’s presidency, Ellen Claremont, a Democrat and a woman, has been elected to be president and is running for a second term in 2020. The First Son of the United States, Alex Claremont-Diaz, is forced to spend time with Prince Henry of England for reparations’ sake after a very public disaster of epic proportions worth $75,000 in cake and frosting, and a romance blossoms.

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