The Adventures of Amina al-Sirafi (Amina al-Sirafi #1)

Source: DRC via NetGalley (Avon and Harper Voyager, Harper Voyager) in exchange for an honest review
Publication Date: February 28, 2023
Synopsis: Goodreads
Purchase Link: Amazon

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Why did I choose to read this book?

I started The Daevabad Trilogy a while ago (The City of Brass) and loved it, but I must have gotten busy because I haven’t read the rest of the trilogy yet. Chakraborty’s writing is lush and exciting, so when I began to see tweets and articles about The Adventures of Amina al-Sirafi my ears and eyes perked up. And how could I resist a story about a middle-aged woman who was a notorious pirate (now 10 years retired) who is being drawn back into the game for one last adventure?

Narrator: She couldn’t resist.

What is this book about?

This story explores the consequences of our decisions. Amina thinks she is safely retired with her daughter and family, but the first domino falls when the mother of one of her former (deceased) crewmates shows up and promises her a million dinars to hunt down and bring back her granddaughter (that crewmate’s daughter). Once she agrees she faces all the things she thought she left behind. Some good, some bad, and one husband she was never able to divorce. Her quest to find the missing/kidnapped/runaway child takes her on a path that may just make her a legend.

At its heart I think this story is about living a life that honors your truest self. You can be a mother, a daughter, a wife, but you are also YOU and if you don’t live a life that you are happy with, it doesn’t matter how happy you make those around you, you will always be left wanting. And the lesson of this book seems to be that the denial of that want is a denial of self, and so you should honor who and what you are. It is a lesson we all need to make sure we learn.

What is notable about this story?

This story is one of the most inclusive I’ve read. Chakraborty draws in all elements of society and treats them as though they are normal, which I always appreciate. The only exception to this is a bit of a spoiler, so I’ll leave it out of my review, but suffice it to say that she honors the fact that not everyone is allowed to live as their truest self and asks us to think about how we can create space and safety so that can happen.

I LOVE DELILA. My little poison monster, how I loved reading when she was in the scene. Imagine if Edna from The Incredibles got into poison instead of fashion and was also Batman. She shines like a diamond in the story, mostly because she’s the character that is clearly herself. I wanted to give her everything she ever wanted and be her lab assistant.

I cackled at how the main characters all made fun of each other’s “oldness”: Amina’s bad knee/leg, Delila’s eyesight, Majed’s weight – it was like hanging out with old friends just ragging on each other. And let me tell you that if you haven’t ever done that, it’s a hell of a lot of fun, epecially if you don’t get offended too easily or take anything too personally. There’s a comfortable familiarity in it that says “this sucks but we’re in it together.” It made me feel warm and welcome.

The portrayal of multiple religions in the story were beautiful. The slight friction between them was there, but the rituals and routines that the characters went through just as a part of their daily lives were so calming to read. It was like Chakraborty gave me a moment of meditation before the next burst of action, or wanted to remind the reader that even when you’re out being a notorious pirate, the unknown and incomprehensible must be acknowledged – whatever that happens to be for you – because there is always someone or something bigger, smarter, stronger than you and it is healthy to stay humble.

The supernatural monsters were absolutely spectacular, and when you consider that they were brought to life by Chakraborty’s writing, you will be able to see/smell/feel them as though they were in the room right next to you. I got chills more than once as Amina made her way through the magical elements of her journey.

Was anything not so great?

I have nothing to say here. Shannon Chakraborty has written a masterpiece and I will defend it with every breath.

What’s the verdict?

5 stars on Goodreads. I plan to preorder a hardcover version and also send one to my grandmother. If you have a woman in your life that dreams, that travels, that seems too big for the container they’ve been placed in, that has been smothered by everyone or everything around them and needs a way to break free – buy this book for them. A masterpiece of feminine power in all its shapes, you’ll finish it and long for more. When you read it, say hi to Delila for me.