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Book Review: Pirates, demons, and medieval magic galore in "The Adventures of Amina al-Sirafi"

With plenty of YA authors jumping into adult fiction, it was time for best-selling author Shannon Chakraborty (also known as S.A. Chakraborty) to jump on the bandwagon and prove, once again, that she is the queen of fantasy. Her new trilogy explodes onto the adult fantasy scene with the first book, "The Adventures of Amina al-Sirafi," Boy, are you in for a wild ride.

Set in the medieval Middle East and Northern Africa, Amina's retirement from her career as one of the Indian Ocean's most notorious pirates should be filled with peace and quiet as she settles into a life of motherhood and piety, with no supernatural or piracy involved. All that changes when she's tracked down by the mother of a former crew member and offered a massive sum to find the crewman's kidnapped daughter. It's just one last adventure with her crew; what could go wrong? Well, everything, in fact. As Amina and her crew journey across the Indian Ocean, this rescue mission becomes much more complex than she anticipated.

Once again, Chakraborty has made me head over heels for her characters. Amina and her crew are the perfect balance of clashing personalities and attitudes but love one another fiercely. Each character, even the minor characters, is written with nuance and a deep understanding of the human condition and the contradictions that come with it.

I'm a sucker for books with layered narratives. Chakraborty perfectly weaves Amina's adventures with the scholar's commentary and additional information. Although this narrative style isn't the most prominent feature of Chakraborty's novel, it adds a layer of scholarly intelligence and mystery to what will ultimately be a small story part of the grander legend that is Amina al-Sirafi.

Suppose you've read Chakraborty's YA series, The Daevabad Trilogy. In that case, you'll find the writing style similar but with touches of cynicism that come with age and dry humor that make you howl with laughter. Chakraborty's decadent descriptions and wild imagination are on full display in "The Adventures of Amina al-Sirafi" and, although occasionally unnecessary, accumulate to a starry-eyed read. And the magic?! The magic Chakraborty weaves into the story is an interesting take that builds upon ancient legends without trying to remake them into something more appetizing for the reader––so be prepared for some wild magic thrown around.

As I mentioned, "The Adventures of Amina al-Sirafi" is no YA series. As such, Chakraborty's themes reflect Amina's challenges in motherhood, fame, and guilt like no other. Other adult fantasy novels follow similar themes, but Chakraborty's version isn't a tale of darkness or violence (although there's plenty of both in this new book). Amina shields Marjana from the world's darkness––including her own history as a pirate. Chakraborty could've taken a darker route with Amina's struggles with motherhood, but it was honestly so refreshing not to go down that road. Despite this, Amina's guilt and dreams of legendary proportions definitely take a more sinister and tear-jerking route. But Chakraborty doesn't hold back on the grief and guilt Amina feels, only strengthening the nuance and wonder of this first novel and hopefully exploring them in more depth with future installments.

Heartfelt, witty, and a good ole blood-pumping high fantasy, "The Adventures of Amina al-Sirafi" is precisely what the adult fantasy world needs: a Muslim feminist who isn't afraid to kick some ass. Do yourself a favor and pick up this soon-to-be bestseller on February 28th.

This ARC was provided by Harper Voyager and Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. Follow @bergreadstoomuch on Instagram for more!

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