🎧 Series review: Sands of Arawiya by Hafsah Faizel @hafsahfaizal @SteveWestActor @fionahardingham @MacmillanAudio #LoveAudiobooks

Posted May 14, 2021 by KC in Book Review / 1 Comment

The spectacular covers and the audio narrators were what first drew my attention to Sands of Arawiya series by Hafsah Faizal.  However, it is the vividly rendered world and compelling characters that make this YA Fantasy series so special. Ms. Faizal draws on the mythology of ancient Arabia as the backdrop to this duology, resulting in an original and exciting story richly layered with cultural detail.  There are friendships, romance, and what seems to be a quest on the scale of getting the One Ring to Mordor.  Expect plenty of angst, it is Ya after all.

The addition of Arabian mythology is not new to me.  I’ve encountered characters such as Ifrit and Djinn in other Fantasy and Urban Fantasy novels, but mostly as singularities or with Eurocentric story arcs.  I loved that the focus of this series stayed closer to home, in the mythology, culture, and politics.  These influences rendered the story more original and fresh.  With audiobooks, it is slightly more difficult to understand unfamiliar terms, and there are several Arabic words used frequently in the text.  Between context clues and google, I was easily able to understand the terms, however I wish there was an ‘X-ray’ feature in audiobooks as in ebooks, to streamline the process.

Narration:

Fiona Hardingham and Steve West are my ‘Dream Team’ of duet narrations.  There is something so compelling in Fiona Hardingham’s performances; I simply adore her tone and accent.  As usual, Steve West knocks it out of the park.  The cast of characters is huge, and he manages to give each a unique and distinct voice.  It is a treat to hear him describe things like the desolate landscape, desert island and numerous food dishes.  There was one single word that distracted me while listening, and had me snickering like a middle-schooler throughout the story.  Given that Hafsah Faizal is American, I assume the original pronunciation of the word was different from how it was performed by both narrators on the audiobook.  Once you hear it, you won’t be able to unhear it.  I don’t want to ruin the experience for anyone else, so I’ll keep the exact word to myself.  (I’d love to know if you experienced the same, so please share in the comments!)

 

🎧 Series review:  Sands of Arawiya by Hafsah Faizel @hafsahfaizal @SteveWestActor @fionahardingham @MacmillanAudio #LoveAudiobooksWe Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal
Narrator: Steve West, Fiona Hardingham
Series: Sands of Arawiya #1
Published by MacMillan Audio on May 14, 2019
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Length: 14 hours, 45 minutes
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
Goodreads
AmazonAudibleAudiobookBarnes & NobleiTunes
zero-flames
One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarHalf a Star

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 sultan. 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 Zafira and Nasir 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 sultan 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.

The first book in the duology, We Hunt the Flame, is a complex read with much time dedicated to world-building and understanding the character paradigms.  I was engaged immediately, drawn in by the characters and trying to understand their motivations as well as puzzle out the role of magic (or lack thereof).  There was an omnipresent tension throughout the narrative.  One second I thought I’d figured out what was going to happen, only to second guess my prediction.

Although the story is told from the alternating points of view of two primary characters, at the center of the story is the Zumra (a coterie or dare I say, fellowship…) Zafira is the world-renowned Hunter, whose prowess and mysterious abilities have allowed her to keep her village from deprivation.  The assassin, Nasir, is the Prince of Death, at war with his own conscience, carrying out the will of his father the Sultan with ruthless efficiency.  Altair is the nameless general, a cunning strategist and charismatic leader whose charming façade conceals dark secrets and unclear intentions.  The fierce warrior Kifah turned her back on scholarship,  and is driven by loss and a determination to protect her fellow countrymen.  And finally, Benyamin is the vain immortal who seeks truth and what is right above all else.  They find themselves unlikely allies in the hunt for a magical artifact that will hopefully prevent the spread and eventual destruction of the world as they know it.  The story is dark and gritty, as the Zumra face internal and external demons in their quest. But there is humor and a slow-burn romance to temper the angst.  We Hunt the Flame ends with what I’d consider a moderate cliffhanger, where an aspect of the story has been completed, but the overall story arch is unresolved.

Listen to a clip: 

Rating Breakdown
Plot
One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star
Writing
One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarHalf a Star
Characters
One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarHalf a Star
Dialogue
One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarHalf a Star
Narration (Audio)
One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne Star
Overall: One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarHalf a Star

🎧 Series review:  Sands of Arawiya by Hafsah Faizel @hafsahfaizal @SteveWestActor @fionahardingham @MacmillanAudio #LoveAudiobooksWe Free the Stars by Hafsah Faizal
Narrator: Steve West, Fiona Hardingham
Series: Sands of Arawiya #2
Published by MacMillan Audio on January 19, 2021
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Length: 17 Hours, 56 Minutes
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
Goodreads
AmazonAudibleAudiobookBarnes & NobleiTunes
half-flame
One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

After the battle on Sharr that closed 'We Hunt the Flame', Zafira and Nasir return to a ghostly Sultan's Keep, low on resources and allies alike, the dark forest has fallen, but the kingdom teems with fear of the Lion of the Night's return. As Nasir fights to command the dark power in his blood, Zafira fights against a very different darkness festering through her bond with the Jawarat.

Less of an adventure novel, We Free the Stars feels more like a war story, where the characters prepare for and face off an epic battle against what appears to be an insurmountable foe.  The overarching  theme of friendship is carried forward with the Zumra in a slightly revised form.  A lot of page time is dedicated to the history, properties, and destiny of magic, as well as the political landscape of the differing Caliphates (i.e. States) of Arawiya. I was a little overwhelmed with the influx of characters, brand new as well as ones that had only played a minor role in the previous installment.  I appreciate the level of detail the author took building tension throughout the story, but the struggles were frequently mental and each character seemed isolated until the last third of the book. This volume lacked the momentum of We Hunt the Flame and I felt stalled out a time or two throughout the story.  What started as a slow-burn romance is dragged out to the point of exhausted frustration.

I was very satisfied with how the story resolved itself, although I might not have enjoyed the process in We Free the Stars as much as I did in the first book.  I liked that the author took the time to show how the characters continued on at the conclusion to the story arc.  I felt that each character arc was fully realized and stayed true to their personalities and beliefs.  And although this series is technically done, I’d love to see the author return to Arawiya and capitalize on all the hard work that went into building such an intricate fantasy world and fascinating characters.

Listen to a clip:

Rating Breakdown
Plot
One StarOne StarOne StarHalf a Star
Writing
One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star
Characters
One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star
Dialogue
One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star
Narration (Audio)
One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne Star
Overall: One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

About Steve West

A London native, Steve began his career by winning the Stage & Television Today acting scholarship at the age of 17 (after ironically believing that he had bombed the audition!). What followed took him through one of London’s top drama conservatories, onto the West End stage in ABBA’s musical phenomenon Mamma Mia! and then to working opposite the likes of Chucky the killer doll and Don Draper in TV’s Mad Men.

Having moved to the States in 2009 he earned a place as a highly respected and award winning voice over artist working across commercials, films, documentary, audiobooks and video games. He starred as Galahad in Sony’s epic motion capture release The Order 1886 which took over 2 years to film and employed the most up-to-date filming and audio techniques in the field.

Versatile in a multitude of ways from acting to singing to dancing to dying 100’s of different ways in a sound booth he continues to enjoy work both on stage, screen and behind a mic. Check out his latest news on the home page, join the conversation on Facebook and twitter and even head back to the 1800s and ‘be’ Steve/Galahad on the PS4!

About Hafsah Faizal

Hafsah Faizal is the New York Times bestselling author of WE HUNT THE FLAME and WE FREE THE STARS. She’s the founder of IceyDesigns, where she creates websites for authors and beauteous goodies for everyone else. When she’s not writing, she can be found dreaming up her next design, deciding between Assassin’s Creed and Skyrim, or traversing the world. Born in Florida and raised in California, she now resides in Texas with a library of books waiting to be devoured.

Rating Breakdown
Plot
One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star
Writing
One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarHalf a Star
Characters
One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarHalf a Star
Dialogue
One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarHalf a Star
Narration (Audio)
One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne Star
Overall: One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarHalf a Star
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Posted May 14, 2021 by KC in Book Review / 1 Comment


One response to “🎧 Series review: Sands of Arawiya by Hafsah Faizel

  1. I won a copy of the first book but haven’t had a chance to read it yet! However, I love Steve West! He has an amazing voice and is an incredible narrator. I might listen to the audiobook instead of reading it just because it’s him! 😉 I’ve heard really great things about this series, so I’m happy to see you enjoyed it too.

    Lindsi @ Do You Dog-ear? 💬

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