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.
Review: 4 Stars
The Candle and the Flame was a fantasy title that I had on my wish-list because I had heard that it was inspired by Middle Eastern mythology and ever since watching the first season of American Gods I have wanted to learn more about mythology from different cultures. I requested a review copy from the publisher and was thrilled when a physical copy arrived. I knew the book was about djinns and set on the Silk Road and I knew very little about either of those things, so I was excited for what I hoped was an original and cultural fantasy novel. The Candle and the Flame was vivid and imaginative, it was filled with a myriad of cultures and beautiful characters, it lived up to my expectations, but also exceeded them in many ways.
The setting of Noor, a city on the Silk Road, was so unique. I haven’t read any fantasy novels set in the Middle-East and I am glad that this was my first because it was done so well. The Silk Road was a trade route that went from China all the way through the Middle-East, so a city set on it would see many different cultures and people, which are represented in this story. At the beginning of the story I did find it a little difficult to jump right in because there were so many terms used that I didn’t know. but I took it slow and referred to the glossary in the back. I knew very little about Muslim culture, but was still able to feel deeply engaged with this book that was so full of it because of how vividly everything was described. Nafiza Azad seamlessly blended historical fiction with fantasy in a way that felt real, but was also beautiful and fascinating.
The pacing of this book is pretty slow and the plot is mostly character driven. The story is told in third person and focuses on several different characters and you get to know each of them pretty well. Fatima is the main character and while her story is the most interesting, I actually favored Bhavya’s character the most. While the plot is pretty good and the reason I picked up this book was to read about djinn, it was the rich culture and human struggles of he characters that really made this story shine.
The Candle and the Flame is an absolute knockout for a debut fantasy novel. It is full of diverse cultures and layered characters. While I prefer a bit of a faster paced story, I really did love this book. The city of Noor, it’s people and their struggles came to life through Nafiza Azad’s vivid writing. I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to read and review this book.