Heart of Flame is a fantasy with romantic elements. Set in the mystical world of 9th Century Arabia, this story is a fast-paced quest that held me spellbound and kept me turning the pages.
Taqla bint-Yusef is a sorceress who lives in seclusion, hiding her true nature from everyone except her trusted servants. Sometimes, she leaves her home in the guise of a man called Zahir, weaving a spell to make her appear as a plain young male. At other times, she weaves spells to appear as Umar, an elderly wise man, all to keep her identity secret and keep herself safe from persecution.
During an outing, Taqla hears of Rafiq the Traveller's return to the city. She is interested in meeting him to learn of his travels. After their first eventful meeting, Rafiq visits the court of the Amir where he witnesses the disappearance of Ahleme, the daughter of the Amir of Dimashq when she vanishes without warning while gazing at a magical painting. The Amir is distraught and offers riches and marriage to the man who returns his daughter. Rafiq is determined to find her and seeks counsel with Umar, the wise man who is in reality Taqla.
Thus begins the quest to find Ahleme and win her hand in marriage. Rafiq sets out with Taqla in her Zahir disguise on an eventful journey.
Ms. Ashbless has done an awesome job with the setting. I've visited this part of the world, and I really felt as if I was dropped in the middle of Arabia. Her descriptions are excellent, painting wonderful word pictures that help make the characters shine.
Rafiq is well-travelled and confident. He intends to marry Ahleme once he finds her and become the next ruler of Dimashq. Taqla is more innocent to the ways of the world, but she holds the power of magic. A well-matched pair, one's strength offsets the other's weaknesses and vica versa. Taqla has a crush on Rafiq. She knows there is no future for them, yet she can't help trying to aid Rafiq in his quest.
For those aspiring writers who want to learn about escalating tension, definitely check out this book. With each passing chapter, the situation seems to become more dire for our hero and heroine. Will they succeed or will they give up, accepting failure?
Heart of Flame is a story of bravery, of djinni, gods, ghosts and magic and the search for love. I enjoyed this book, and if you're a fan of fantasy with a good dose of romance then I think you'll like it too.