Noor is a city of trade, where people of all religions and ethnicities live side by side. But not long ago, it was nearly destroyed by a tribe of warlike djinn, against whom the human rulers of Noor and the fiery race of Ifrit djinn allied themselves to defeat them. Eight years have passed since this tragedy, but Noor is still rebuilding itself, with the help of immigrants from all over the world seeking its promises of peace and harmony. And the rulership of Noor is still shared between the human maharajah and the Ifrit djinn, who protect the city and its people.
Eighteen-year-old Fatima is a human girl who lives on the edges of Noor, away from the opulence of its rulers, where she and her adoptive sister work hard to buy food and get by. She has nothing to do with the affairs of the Ifrit or the human rulers. But when a powerful Ifrit dies and their power—impossibly—is passed to Fatima, she becomes entangled in the complicated affairs of the court of Noor, among both humans and djinn. She meets Zulfikar, the commander of Noor’s Ifrit; his advisor Anwar, who takes more interest in Fatima than she would prefer; and the princess Bhavya, who struggles to escape the social confines imposed by her station. As she learns more about the conflicts of the court and the Ifrit fire she carries within her, Fatima must uncover the truth of the growing dissent against the Ifrit and the return of the same djinn who attacked Noor eight years ago before not even her newfound power can stop the growing flame.
The Candle and the Flame is a multilayered fantasy novel full of diverse worldbuilding and intriguing characters. Fatima, and her development, is well-done and interesting; I like her character and the way she handles situations. The rest of the cast, including a handful of other characters who have point of view sections (including Zulfikar and Bhavya), is also excellent, and I particularly loved reading scenes where they interact, as I had a sense of what all of them are thinking; all of them are very real. The plot is well-written and complex; for this reason, I think this book would be enjoyed by fans of books like Seraphina, Nameless Queen, and Shadow and Bone.
Initially when I started The Candle and the Flame, I was a little confused—Nafiza Azad uses a number of words from other languages. However, I discovered there’s a guide to the most major terms in the back of the book, which helped clarify much of this. As I continued reading, they added significantly to the book, making the setting, and the book as a whole, feel vivid and real. Noor is fascinating and well-developed, distinct from other fantasy novel’s I’ve read, and I liked the magic of the different djinn as well.
Overall, I would highly recommend The Candle and the Flame to readers ages thirteen and up who enjoy intricate plots, multilayered worlds, and distinct characters.