Sunday, February 23, 2020
The Candle and the Flame, by Nafiza Azad
Strikingly original amalgam of cultures and ideas, Azad has drawn on a wide palate to create this crossroads world that combines not only different world cultures, but also different ideas of magic and religion. The story takes liberties with many of these in its mashup and introduces a matriarchy and strong women characters that fit loosely on top of the traditions it invokes. That can at times feel revisionist, but it fits in smoothly. Azad triumphs in cultural detail, obviously in love with the food, clothing, and smells of this world. No meal takes place without a detailed description of what is being served. No clothing is worn without extensive description of what is being worn and how it is accessorized. If you are into that and have the patience to spend a lot of time in the Glossary (helpfully provided at the end of the book), then this is a rewarding read. For more casual readers, it can seem like cultural overload and one longs for more story and less culture.