Book Review: WE FREE THE STARS by Hafsah Faizal

Title in swirling white on orange next to girl with archery set
Genre: Fantasy 
Age Range: YA
Star Rating: 2 stars
Series: yes - second book in duology



Book cover for WE FREE THE STARS: title in swirling silver on girl with archery setmaroon boy in tower looking down on

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.

As the zumra plots to overthrow the kingdom’s darkest threat, Nasir fights to command the magic in his blood. He must learn to hone his power into a weapon, to wield not only against the Lion but against his father, trapped under the Lion’s control. Zafira battles a very different darkness festering in her through her bond with the Jawarat—a darkness that hums with voices, pushing her to the brink of her sanity and to the edge of a chaos she dare not unleash. In spite of the darkness enclosing ever faster, Nasir and Zafira find themselves falling into a love they can’t stand to lose…but time is running out to achieve their ends, and if order is to be restored, drastic sacrifices will have to be made.

Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


I had got on passingly OK with the first book back in 2019 – thought it was massively overhyped but an OK read. However, the re-read of the first book was a bit of a fight because I just found the characters so flat. Their entire personalities seemed to boil down to one thing (for example, the one who annoyed me the most was Nasir, who was just constantly “I’m an unlovable monster who’s weak.”) And I’m not a big fan of “broody” characters, as they rarely have other characteristics, and yet are deemed love interests?

Unfortunately, they only seemed to dig their heels in more about their single, frustrating characteristic in this book. Nasir, despite actually having no part in any of the four stages of creating the weapon that damages Zafira’s village, blames himself for it. And Zafira believes him. If he had even thought for half a second about it, he would have seen it wasn’t his fault. But, it causes relationship drama, I guess? (I HATE relationship drama based on miscommunication or ridiculous logical inconsistencies like this. You can TELL it’s there just to add “drama.”)

Altair, with his quippy nature hiding secrets, was at least the most complex character of the first book, but in this book he started off with another logical fallacy. There was a battle at the end of B2 against the big bad. It was chaos and deadly, and they had to flee. He was captured, and has decided he must have been left behind because no one liked him (despite Zafira basically saying he was a friend in B1). So he listens to the big bad.

This all happens within 60 pages, and the book is almost 600 pages long. I’ll be honest, at that point I was bracing to fight through and probably would have DNF’d if I hadn’t been buddy read it.

It was mostly the characters for me. I was the sort of teenager who was described as 14 going on 40, and who had no interest in a relationship. When a book’s core cast can mostly be described as “characters who make bad decisions and are going mad for love”, it’s hard for me to connect as that was not me – and is not me. I did really like that Kifah was described as aro(!!) and would have loved to see more of her rather than as a supporting cast member. However, the focus of the book was on Zafira and Nasir (and the odd POV chapter from Altair, but it was like he was often forgotten.)

Unfortunately, I mostly just wanted to shake Zafira and Nasir, tell them to think before acting, and to just talk it through so I didn’t have to sit through yet another set of chapters about them pining but not communicating so coming across issues. The bulk of the plot seemed to be taken up by their relationship while they didn’t seem to do anything against the big bad for chapters at a time (the chapters are very short, which only made it feel like less action because you’d read 5 chapters back to back of them pining, and then, oh wait, only 20 pages have actually passed).

They took a long time to go after the big bad, who was holding Altair captive PLUS the thing they needed. And then it failed and they spent a while regrouping before other stuff happened (including a plot point I find pretty annoying in the midway of books because it is SO rare for a character to be actually killed part way through, so there’s no tension or emotional punch in it for me.)

Well, I got to the end of the duology. I can see why other people like this, but I think it’s just proving to me, as I’ve been thinking for a few months now, that I am shifting away from YA, unless the characters are a bit more sensible and considered – because they’re the ones I can empathise with more.

Read my reviews of other books by Hafsah Faizal:

The Sands of Arawiya (this series):


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