In this historical fantasy, a Silk Road–adjacent city is populated by myriad human cultures, as well as the order-upholding Ifrit tribe of Djinn. Fatima is transformed into a human-Djinn hybrid after she unexpectedly inherits her mentor’s power. Already noteworthy for surviving a terrible massacre years ago, she must now accept her role as the Name Giver, charged with naming any Djinn who wish to take on mortal form. Drawn into both mortal and supernatural politics, and unexpectedly attracted to the mysterious Zulfikar, the Ifrit Emir of Noor City, Fatima must master her powers while balancing her new role with her relationships to friends and family. Though the exposition can initially feel heavy and the narrative voice, distant, Azad makes a strong debut with this vibrant, lushly described tale that weaves elements of magic, mystery, and romance together with richness of language (“The desert sings of loss, always loss, and if you stand quiet with your eyes closed, it will grieve you too”). Ages 12–up. Agent: Katelyn Detweiler, Jill Grinberg Literary Management. (May)
Gr 7 Up—Eighteen-year-old Fatima is a human who carries the fire of the djinn within her. She's a devout Muslim raised by her adopted Hindu family in Noor, a city along the Silk Road, when her parents and all but two other of the city's inhabitants are slain in a massacre by the Shayateen, a class of djinn who thrive on chaos and destruction. Noor emerges from the ashes to become a vibrant multicultural city where Muslims, Hindus, and others live together in a brokered peace maintained by human rule and the protection of the Ifrit Djinn, who value order and reason. There are signs, however, that this peace is under serious threat. When Fatima's presence at the violent death of Firdaus, a powerful Ifrit, transforms her into Fatima Ghazala, she is changed in ways that upend her identity, threaten her relationships, and thrust her into the center of the city's ruling class. Under the protection of the Ifrit's leader, Zulfikar, Fatima finds herself grappling with feelings she's never had before. In this sophisticated debut novel, Azad combines Islamic concepts and Middle Eastern mythology with a variety of other traditions to create a magical treatise on identity, community, friendship, and love. Readers will identify with female characters who struggle against limiting societal expectations. The themes of trauma and grief are treated with care. Azad's vivid depiction of the details of Noor's sights and sounds make the city come alive. Back matter includes a glossary of terms. Readers may also enjoy the forthcoming title We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal. VERDICT A moving commentary on gender roles, identity, love, and loss, and a first purchase for school and public libraries.—Mahasin A. Aleem, Oakland Public Library, CA
Noor is a fantastical, multicultural city in South Asia, home to a tremendous variety of languages, religions, and cultures.
Eight years ago, however, Noor was attacked by a tribe of chaotic djinn called the Shayateen, resulting in many deaths. Only three humans survived the massacre, and Fatima was one of them. The ruler at the time, Maharajah Arjun, asked the djinn of order and reason, the Ifrit, for help safeguarding the city, and now, his son, Maharajah Aarush, peacefully rules over Noor alongside Zulfikar, the leader of the Ifrit. When one of the most important and powerful Ifrit dies, however, Fatima undergoes a radical transformation—one she doesn't immediately comprehend—and wakes to discover that she now has the fire of the djinn within her. Now, she must find a way to protect her family and friends from a seemingly inevitable civil war while figuring out her new identity. Based on Islamic mythology and Arabic folklore, debut author Azad's descriptive storytelling and complex characters give the novel a certain richness and texture missing from solely plot-based narratives; readers can vicariously taste foods from different cultures and partake of the sights, smells, and sounds of the city of Noor where Hindus and Muslims live side by side in peace and harmony. The novel also sensitively deals with the delicate issues of grief and trauma.
A must-read for lovers of fantasy. (dramatis personae, glossary) (Fantasy. 14-18)
Praise for The Candle and the Flame:
Finalist for the William C. Morris YA Debut Award
Short-listed, Sunburst Award, Young Adult category, 2020
* "A must-read for lovers of fantasy." Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"Azad's splendid debut is an ode to cultural harmony that features exciting magic, an emotionally complex cast, and a touching romance." Booklist
"Fiery magic, sizzling romance, and a city so achingly hopeful and real that you can almost taste it on every page. I can't wait to return to Noor!" Rachel Hartman, New York Times bestselling author of the Seraphina books
"Ground breaking and immersive paranormal YA that evokes all the beauty, richness, and diversity of the ancient cultures, faiths, and languages of the Silk Road. There's an effortless beauty in the kaleidoscopic descriptions of food, fashion, practices, and faiths; Azad's language is so evocative, you can almost taste and smell the riches of the night bazaar. A fiercely feminist take on Islamic culture, it's an assured and outside-the-box debut that deals with larger themes such as tolerance and women's rights while functioning as a thrilling action adventure with touches of heart-stirring romance. Prepare to be swept up." Rebecca Lim, bestselling author of Mercy and The Astrologer's Daughter
"Sumptuous writing, vivid detail, and a gallery of deftly-drawn characters highlight this glorious debut." Kate Elliott, author of Court of Fives and Cold Magic
"No other book I've read this year has felt as much like home to me. Gorgeous, intricate and enthralling in its scope, The Candle and the Flame is a brilliant debut . . . a stunning standout in YA fantasy." Ausma Zehanat Khan, author of The Bloodprint