26 September 2023

The Adventures of Amina Al-Sirafi

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Reviewed by Robert Goodman.

By Shannon Chakraborty, Harper Collins, $32.99.

Shannon Chakraborty follows up her Daevabad trilogy (which started with City of Brass) with more Middle Eastern inspired fantasy. The first of a projected series, The Adventures of Amina Al-Sirafi delivers what the title and cover promise – a rollicking tale of pirates, magic and high seas adventure in the vein of Sinbad. But just to mix things up a bit, Chakraborty puts an aging, retired female pirate captain as the centre of the action.

Former notorious pirate captain Amina Al-Sirafi has been retired for fifteen years. She lives a quiet, anonymous life with her daughter until a wealthy woman from Aden comes to her with an offer she is unable to refuse. Al-Sirafi is asked to track down the woman’s grand-daughter, a girl who is also the daughter of one of Al-Sirafi’s former crewmen. She is offered for a huge reward but also threatened to have her identity revealed to the world if she refuses. The story then centres around Al-Sirafi getting the old band back together for one last mission but soon discovers that magic is involved, and with magic nothing turns out to be that simple. Al-Sirafi falls into her old patterns quickly and realises how much she missed her previous life and the glory that came with it.

The Adventures of Amina Al-Sirafi is a romp from start to finish. All of the elements are here – a magical macguffin, a moustache-twirling villain, monsters, unknowable spirit creatures, a bantering crew, long buried secrets, cliffhangers and reverses. Told with characters who have not often been given centre stage in Western canon and in a setting that tries to be historically accurate. Chakraborty deploys these elements perfectly to deliver a fast paced, action packed tale with more than a little heart. And while some storylines get tied up, she leaves plenty of threads to be picked up in volumes to come.

Over 900 more book reviews can be found on Pile by the Bed.

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