The Adventures of Amina al-Sirafi
by Shanon Chakraborty
This review is not sponsored by Book of the Month. I purchased this novel with my own money, and have not been asked to write this review.
I love a good pirate tale, though admittedly I haven’t read many. I was excited for Amina al-Sirafi to take me on an adventure, to give me a window into her wondrous world, and to explore the unknown together.
I immediately loved how this book was set up to tell Amina’s story. We weave between the present day with Amina and a scribe, as Amina quips about language and being true to herself, and the past that is interspersed with articles depicting these current events and magical, celestial lore. The craft with which these writing and storytelling devices were included was so seamless; I never felt frustrated when we changed from past to present, or vice versa.
This novel had a few predictable moments, but I was so happy to see my heart’s desires for this story come to fruition. I loved the character development not only for Amina, but for her three most trusted crewmates. Getting to flit in and out of each of their personal lives for a few chapters while they were introduced, before officially rejoining Amina on this new journey, was such a great way to get a sense of these characters and what was driving them.
The fantastical elements in this novel caught me a little off guard if I’m being honest. While I had mentally been prepared for demons, I could not have predicted the magical island Amina washes up on. That was genuinely one of the strangest reading experiences I’ve had in quite some time. It was so far removed from what I normally read in fantasy novels, and yet so painstakingly descriptive that I can still vividly picture each dastardly creature.
I loved reading this book so much I didn’t want to finish it. What was supposed to be a week (or so) long reading challenge, ended up taking the better portion of the month. The biggest shock of all, and I’m truly kicking myself for not piecing it together, was the ending revelation. I’m so excited that this novel left off with the chance at future adventures with Amina and her crew. I’d love to be back in this world with them again.
Some things I didn’t mention at length but really enjoyed or appreciated: Amina’s religious practice and the conversation around her (and others) beliefs, a transgender character who is just starting their transition, the discussion on political power and how it can make one person safe while for others it means their genocide.
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