Skip to main content

April 2023 book review

The Adventures of Amina Al-Sirafi, by Shannon Chakraborty.

Warning, spoilers!

This book was a delight from start to finish, I had so much fun reading it. It's a swashbuckling romp that completely took me out of myself; I haven't felt such a feeling of complete escapism in ages, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It's fast and it's vibrant, a high seas adventure which reminded me of how it felt to watch old films like Ray Harryhausen's Jason and the Argonauts and The Golden Voyage of Sinbad. 

Amina Al-Sirafi is a tough, no-nonsense ex-pirate with a moral code and a tongue sharp as steel who has been cajoled into one last adventure over the high seas. She faces down sorcerers, leviathans, and demi-god ex-husbands who have amazing backsides. Her thirst for adventure and the horizon made me wish I could get up and go exploring too. Even so, Amina Al-Sirafi's internal struggles between returning to her ship - to the love of her life, the sea - and remaining safe and well for her daughter's sake, is a constant throughout the book and was incredibly convincing. Her fear of death and leaving her daughter unprotected, when in her youth she had been fearless, gave her an incredible vulnerability, and ferocity. 

Being introduced to the captain at this point in her life, resigned to retirement and sore knees in her middle age, was refreshing. I'm not middle aged but I've begun finding my own grey hairs and it's nice to feel that further adventure awaits. If my rambling hasn't made it obvious, Al-Sirafi's character was one of the highlights of the book for me.

Al-Sirafi's crew are likeable and well-rounded, with a real sense that they have a tangled history with their nakhudha of which we're only seeing the topmost strands. I can sense a hundred unpublished stories in the background, perhaps plastered to a wall in the author's house and connected by red string, which you can really feel just under the surface. Chakraborty's world, based in the historic Middle-East, is rich and alive, full of mysterious magics and references to real events; I felt like I learned something, or at the very least was inspired to go and read up on who the Franks actually were.

I did like the fantasy elements towards the end, the other world where the bird-people, the peri elite, rule, but honestly I could have spent way more time with the captain on her ship, visiting ports and getting up to hijinks. It's such a rich world on its own that I was a little blindsided by the addition of a second, which felt quite 'generic fantasy world' to me after the very pronounced character of the high seas. Its weirdness was a little jarring, although I imagine it was supposed to be as disconcerting for the reader as it was for Amina Al-Sirafi being washed up on its cow-eating shores.

Regardless, I can't wait for the next two books. Thanks to HarperVoyager for sending me the arc copy, which got thoroughly bashed around my bag in my own adventures overseas.


Popular posts from this blog

My Book Has Published! The Gilded Crown, Book 1 of the Raven's Trade Series

    The Gilded Crown, HarperVoyager       My debut novel, The Gilded Crown , is now published! Having a book finished and out there is something of a dream come true, and it's a real honour to be publishing with HarperVoyager.    I've been writing since I was a child and I've always known it was what I wanted to do. I think it emerged from a complete paralysis about what I should morph my life into; pirate, firefighter, astronaut, soldier, I was spoiled for choice at a young age and very privileged to be in a position to become whatever I wanted to be (well, except perhaps pirate, but there's still time). As a writer, you can be anything and everything, you can study a thousand different areas of research (for the GC I read up on medieval medicine, herbology, and raven care, just to name a few), and become a thousand people. It is freedom, pure and simple, to cloak yourself in the fur of whatever beast you'd like to become. I have soared and galloped and now I'm

Six Sapphic Books

The Locked Library recently shared a post where I give my top six Sapphic books, so I thought I'd post them here as well! Each of these has a special place in my heart (or, in the case of 'The Girls', a rent-free attic space in my brain, where it has claimed squatter's rights and will not be budged no matter the cartoons and plushies thrown at it). Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Cafe Fannie Flagg   A novel from 1987 about an old woman recounting the stories of her youth in Whistle Stop, Alabama, and the cafe run by her sister-in-law, Idgie, and her friend, Ruth. A main plot arc follows Idgie and Ruth as they grow up, bonded by a tragedy. You can hear the Alabama drawl in the tone throughout the book, it's just lovely. I'm a sucker for the Alabama accent.  One of the most heartwarming books I've ever read. It explores themes of racism and bigotry as well as the struggles of growing older.  The film they made is gorgeous, I'd watch Kathy Bates in

May 2023 book review

  Silver Nitrate, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia Warning, spoilers! I really found a gem in this book. Silver Nitrate is a clever, slow-burning horror, which combines old-school cinematography with Nazi occultism in such an effortless match that I’m surprised I haven’t seen it before. You can feel the love of old feature films and ‘90s era technology bleeding from the page, twisted through with hauntings and failed rituals to create a really unique read. The pace was much slower than I was expecting; there’s a steady and considered build-up with nothing particularly supernatural happening until well into the second half. The first part is foundation-laying, and while it could have run the risk of being boring, it kept the balance perfectly between information-gathering, character building and plot momentum. The background film theory, the lore, the film technology of the ‘90s, could have felt like too much exposition, but on the contrary it was one of the highlights of the book for me,