Title: THE CANDLE AND THE FLAME
Author: Nafiza Azad
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Genre: YA Fantasy
Back Cover 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.
What I Thought
Let’s start off by saying that the world-building in THE CANDLE AND THE FLAME is immersive, and if you are familiar with other reads in this vein then you will already be familiar with the background. And you need to be, because there is a lot to take in, in Azad’s world of Noor, a city set along the legendary Silk Road, in another time and place.
Azad’s world, we are told, is a multicultural landscape. But we never really see the truth of this, which is a shame. Like the professed intricate politics—which never fully manifests—we only get snatches and glimpses of what could or might be there, hidden beneath and behind Azad’s words. It never really comes to the forefront. Not in force, and not the way I hoped, as with other reads along similar lines to this one.
Just like the flimsy characters, who we see only in passing. As the story is told in a very frustrating 3rd person present. And while there are many characters—and I mean, there are a lot—along with our MC: Fatima. We never really get to know them beyond a superficial level.
This is due to an utter lack of emotion and therefore, any depth to all these myriad characters with similar sounding names.
We hear what they are saying, we see what they see. But at no point, despite all the pain and hardship, love and joy, there’s no emotional resonance.
It’s one thing to be told a character is in pain, or in love, and that they are feeling excited or in agony. But if the author doesn’t make us feel these emotions, we really cannot connect on any level with the characters.
As a result, THE CANDLE AND THE FLAME comes across as flat because of this lack of emotional depth. It’s a real shame given all the right ingredients are present—amazing female friendships, the portrayal of strong women, diversity, magical Djinn for crying out loud—but they’re just not exploited or given consequence. Even the love angle between Fatima and Zulfikar came across as insta-love and contrived.
I really wanted to love this book but, in the end, it never quite lived up to expectations—for me at least. That isn’t to say you might not enjoy it, but truly, if you want some depth to your story and your characters, go jump into S.A. Chakraborty’s world of the Djinn.