Last Updated on December 26, 2022
Naseem Jamnia gifts a wonderous new world in their debut novella, The Bruising of Qilwa. A world plagued with genocide and disease, a great number of refugees seek safer lands. Yet, Jamnia offers a different perspective for the immigration story. A narrative in which the colonizer becomes the oppressed. Defying its length, The Bruising of Qilwa pursues the varying facets of marginalization and blends it into an intimate account of family and identity in this medical fantasy.
They are understandably wary of outsiders, especially with a new disease emerging. As dead bodies congest the streets and sea, Qilwans are quick to blame the refugees.
The Bruising of Qilwa follows the narrative of a nonbinary Sassanian refugee and blood-magic user, Firuz-e Jafari. Firuz and their family arrive in disease stricken Qilwa. Firuz is blessed to find work as a medical assistant to Kofi, the only healer willing to treat those of Sassanian blood.
The Bruising of Qilwa contains some of the most memorable voices I’ve read in fantasy. Having an assistant healer as the protagonist unfolds a different kind of fantasy story. In many ways, The Bruising of Qilwa is more slice of life than epic. A good majority of the story is Firuz’s day to day life in Qilwa. They are treating patients and disposing of deceased bodies. They are guardian to their brother and a young refugee they adopted. As they uncover secrets regarding this disease, they also are adapting to their new homeland and protecting their family. These small moments of Firuz’s daily struggles are where Jamnia’s writing shines brightest.
I do believe The Bruising of Qilwa would have been better served as a full-length novel. Jamnia expertly depicts the medical setting in which Firuz worked and I craved more. I wanted additional depictions of Qilwans struggling with the rise of this new disease and the influx of migrants. I wanted more elements of mystery regarding this “blood-bruising” disease.
Naseem Jamnia delivers a powerful message in The Bruising of Qilwa. Their story of the marginalized refugee is not one of good versus evil. It’s a story of survival and a commentary on fear. While not quite action-packed, readers of dark fantasy will appreciate the absence of true righteousness.