The Candle and the Flame by Nafiza Azad

Book Blurb

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. 

I listened to this book on Spotify for my own pleasure. I was not required to write a review therefore all comments and opinions are entirely my own.

Review:

Like a piece of the finest cheesecake, rich and creamy with the decadent drizzle of tart strawberry syrup, this book is meant to be savored with every bite.

I listened to this audio-book for nearly two months — an effort to make it last forever. It scarcely left my thoughts when I wasn’t listening and when I was, I was completely consumed by the richness of the writing and intensity of meaning and purpose behind the story.

I have so much to say about The Candle and the Flame, so if you are only interested in the quaint summarization of my opinions, here: this book is beautiful and you should read it. But if you require more convincing than that, let me describe to you what you would be missing if The Candle and the Flame never made it into your hands.

First, you would deny yourself entry to one of the most beautiful, culturally enriched, fantasy worlds that I have ever read. The desert city of Noor is diverse in its scenery, beliefs, and races. Not only is it merely diverse in including these differences for the simple sake of including them, but it fully embraces the diversity by showing both the wonder and enchantment that diversity brings — and why we strive to have it — while also revealing the age-old tensions that come with people having differences from one another. Noor is such a stupendous backdrop for our story because it’s a city that you would want to visit to learn it’s histories, to meet the people, to taste the food, to attend the festivals and events. Noor, itself, is worth reading about.

Secondly, you would never experience this intricately stitched story of independence and teamwork, courage and cowardice, and love and hate. This story compares and contrasts so many values and morals in a way that it is so satisfying to finish. It’s unpredictable and exciting as the plot peels back its many folds and unexpected surprises. Every second of the story has meaning; every flower, every meal, every sunset and sunrise, every thought, and every name, it all has a purpose for being in the story. And as those purposes are revealed and connected to each other, the book becomes harder and harder to put down, until the very end. The story of The Candle and the Flame is one that will not be easily forgotten. At least for me.

And the last thing that you would miss out on if you never read The Candle and the Flame, are the characters that literally ignite this story into existence. The story is centered around Fatima, so we naturally want to call her the “main character”, but this book is more like life in that there really isn’t a main character, just people connected by a time and a place. Fatima is the main character of her story, but then we shift perspectives and Zulfikar becomes the main character of his story, and then Bhavya of hers, and Sunaina of hers, and so forth. I think that is what I truly loved, that no character ever felt like a “background character”, they were all just as important to THEIR story as Fatima was to hers. And the complexity of their characters were so excellently done that I never grew tired of reading about them. And I will add, in a very vague way so as to not include spoilers, that I have never seen a character like Fatima Ghazala before and the dynamics of her situation and personality were done perfectly!

The last thing that I’d like to add, is that if you’re unfamiliar with the language of Hindi (like myself) — which I believe is the inspiration behind this story? — this book may be a challenge to read as far as pronunciations and definitions go. So I HIGHLY recommend listening to the audio-book for the pronunciations. It is read by an excellent narrator, Christine Tawfik, and I am quite certain that my love of the book had a lot to do with being confident in how the names were pronounced!

So overall, The Candle and the Flame is a book that I genuinely love and will find its permanent place on my bookshelf. It’s a journey that I think most readers of fantasy will enjoy partaking in. I give it 5 out of 5 stars.

*For the readers who may be concerned about content: This is a clean novel — there is no cursing nor any sex scenes included. There are decent amounts of blood mentioned, and some sexual motives for violence (which are never allowed action). The romance does include a special intimacy in marriage that is unique only to this story world and this intimacy is both physical and emotional for the characters, but it isn’t sexual relations. It’s incredibly well-done, in my opinion, and captures the complexities of emotion and love in a relationship very well (and I know I’m being incredibly vague here but I don’t want to include spoilers, so if you’re concerned about this intimacy, just ask me and I’ll break it down for you privately). But, I was very pleased to realize that this novel was entirely clean!

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