REVIEW: The Adventures of Amina al-Sirafi by Shannon Chakraborty

Some books are so magical you know within a few pages that they will end up on your favourites shelf. The Adventures of Amina al-Sirafi by Shannon Chakraborty is such a book. I was smitten by the end of the historical preface, in love by the time I first got to glimpse Amina herself. Shannon Chakraborty wrote herself into readers’ hearts with the Daevabad series – fans will spot a fun easter egg in this – but has seriously levelled up with this new book. Telling the magical tale of Amina al-Sirafi, medieval pirate in the Pacific within the historical context of the Crusades and Holy War, this is compelling, twisty and brilliant.

Cover of The Adventure of Amina al-SirafiWhen we meet Amina, she has long since retired from her life at sea. Settled down to give her daughter, Marjana, a good life, she is neither young nor beautiful anymore – a rare thing for a heroine these days. It is great to read a book about a middle aged heroine, driven by her personality rather than her looks, with the latter not really playing much of a role at all. But then, a rich woman makes Amina an offer she can’t refuse. Her granddaughter has been kidnapped by a Western treasure hunter, remaining in the region after coming as part of the Crusades. But not all is quite what it seems and everyone has far more complicated motivations for their actions than it first seems. I also appreciated how romance – or maybe more accurately, seduction – is used as a tool rather than as a primary focus of the story, a minor element but not something that is dominant. The love of friendship and family, both family by blood and family by choice is far more important here.

We spend most of the story with Amina and her motley crew of sailors, reassembled by necessity. Shannon Chakraborty weaves in mythology, history and brilliant characters with an adventure story to create a plot that is also, most of all, fun to read. Two things that particularly stood out to me as wonderful devices of her craft were the weaving in of stories, using the past as something of a mythologised tale to create a larger-than-life version of Amina as well as the nuanced treatment of queer characters within the historical and religious context of the story. There are multiple characters that identify on the queer spectrum, and I loved discovering their identities as the story went on – and found that it added a layer of joy to the story that I didn’t expect.

The Adventures of Amina al-Sirafi is a masterpiece and a must-read for those who enjoy historical fantasy, brilliant characters and great storytelling. Oh, and I guess there’s pirates, daeva and other supernatural creatures too. And a good dose of fun and betrayal. Five stars for a firm favourite.

Read The Adventures of Amina al-Sirafi by Shannon Chakraborty

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Fabienne Schwizer

Fabienne Schwizer

Fabienne can usually be found with her nose in a book or two. Most of her life revolves around words, be that reading, writing, or editing. You can find more of her ramblings over on www.libridraconis.com, where she also reviews YA books and more lighthearted Fantasy and Science Fiction, as @FLSchwizer on Twitter, and @libri_draconis on Instagram. If you're curious about what she is currently reading, check out www.goodreads.com/libridraconis.