The Adventures of Amina al-Sirafi by Shannon Chakraborty – ARC Review!

Amina al-Sirafi should be content. After a storied and scandalous career as one of the Indian Ocean’s most notorious pirates, she’s survived backstabbing rogues, vengeful merchant princes, several husbands, and one actual demon to retire peacefully with her family to a life of piety, motherhood, and absolutely nothing that hints of the supernatural.

But when she’s tracked down by the obscenely wealthy mother of a former crewman, she’s offered a job no bandit could refuse: retrieve her comrade’s kidnapped daughter for a kingly sum. The chance to have one last adventure with her crew, do right by an old friend, and win a fortune that will secure her family’s future forever? It seems like such an obvious choice that it must be God’s will.

Yet the deeper Amina dives, the more it becomes alarmingly clear there’s more to this job, and the girl’s disappearance, than she was led to believe. For there’s always risk in wanting to become a legend, to seize one last chance at glory, to savour just a bit more power…and the price might be your very soul.

I’m calling it now, this book is 100% going to be one of my favourite reads of the year. Amina al-Sirafi and all her snark own my heart, and Chakraborty has once again created a story & bunch of characters I fell head over heels for. Amina al-Sirafi, once a famed Nakhuda of a Pirate ship, now lives a slightly more peaceful life, one she should be content with, but she still hears the call of the Sea. Tracked down by a wealthy mother of her former crewman, Amina finds herself drawn back into her old life, after all no one could refuse the sum the woman offered, even someone who was supposedly retired. With her old crew in tow, Amina feels this job should be an easy one, but the longer she looks into it, the more she realises that there is something more sinister at work, something magical, and the price of becoming the legend she has always dreamed of might be one she isn’t quite willing to pay.

When I say I love Amina, I am not remotely exaggerating. Chakraborty has done what few others before her have managed, written a woman, a mother, who is over a certain age, with parts of her body that move slower than they used to but makes her someone who still has wants and needs. Someone who hasn’t been overshadowed by motherhood, someone who deeply loves their child, but also wishes for the freedom they once had, someone who despite being a mother, still appreciates a good looking man and would more than happily take one for a tumble if asked. It’s so rare to see women of this age in literature, let alone fantasy, and even more the MC of the book, but Amina’s age, her experience and just the reality of how she is written was one of my favourite parts of the story. She is jaded, snarky, still more likely to punch than ask questions, but when you are the famed Nakhuda Amina al-Sirafi, you have a reputation to uphold and boy does she.

Chakraborty also graces us with a side cast of similarly aged characters, in fact apart from Marjana, Amina’s daughter and the girl she is tasked with finding, most of the characters in this book would be classed as over their prime, but there is something to be said for experience. Dalila, a poison expert who joined Amina’s old crew under slightly dubious circumstances, something another crew member still holds a grudge over years later, Tinbu, Amina’s first mate and the person she made the Nakhuda of the Marawati when she retired & Majed, someone Amina looks on as an older brother figure and the original Map Reader from her crew. The interactions between these characters stole the story for me, Chakraborty writes their relationships so incredibly well. There’s a short hand that comes with knowing people for as long as these characters have, as well as bonds that aren’t easily broken, but with those also comes memories, not all of them good and I honestly just wanted to devour every interaction between these four because, despite the magic, it all felt so incredibly realistic. There is also an absolute himbo of a Demon who adds some hilarity to the story and had me cackling throughout… although he’s pretty useless in a fight.

This story is set in the same world as Chakraborty’s Daevabad series, which becomes apparent the more you read of the story, and we also get treated to a few links that readers of her previous series will enjoy. But with this book, I felt she took the world of Daevabad and just expanded it exponentially. With Amina being a Pirate she can sail from country to country, port to port and through her travels, Chakraborty brings the world of the medieval Indian Ocean and all it encompasses to life. With every page, every bit of information you get given you can just see how much research went into making this as historically accurate as possible, and the time period linked with Amina’s character make for some humorous parts… especially the multiple husbands. But she also expands on the magical side of it, bringing a boat load more mythology, magical creatures and fables of old to make The Adventures of Amina al-Sirafi as adventurous and exciting as possible.

As someone who isn’t usually a fan of books set at sea, don’t ask me why cause I have no idea, I did wonder whether I would be similarly disappointed by this, but that couldn’t have been further from the truth. Chakraborty’s writing style propels the story a long at a breakneck pace and I found myself picking this book up every spare moment I had, I even read it on my phone when I was at work because I just needed to continue reading, to find out what happened next. The fact is was written as an almost memoir, with a scribe sitting and talking to Amina and asking her to recall her stories was exceptional, and the little interjections throughout where something was questioned or Amina wasn’t happy with how something had been portrayed just added an extra depth, as well as plenty of humour and intrigue to the story. There are plenty of plot twists, plenty of little hints thrown in to further the plot, but for me it was the characters and their interactions that stole this story, and as a lover of well written characters I felt absolutely treated by Chakraborty whilst reading this.

There was no real romance, unless you count Amina pining over any man who was attractive, no judgement cause I would 100% be the same. Instead the story focused Amina’s familial relationships, either those of her crew mates who, after years at sea together and some altogether sketchy situations, became like a second family, or her actual family with her brother and mother and daughter Marjana. I mentioned this a little above, but I adored how Chakraborty explored the complexity of motherhood. She allowed her to be a mother who absolutely adored her child, wanted nothing but the best for her and someone who would kill anyone who tried to harm her, but she also allowed her to have wants outside of that relationship. To miss being out at sea with her crew, the freedom that brought and throughout the story we see her struggle with these two sides of her life, wishing neither would change but knowing that one would have to give even a little to allow the other to flourish.

Knowing this is the first book in a trilogy has me so incredibly excited because I could read pages and pages of Amina and her crew going on adventure after adventure and never get bored. Chakraborty did a brilliant job tying this story together, whilst leaving an opening for more and I cannot wait to see what the crew of the Marawati get up to next.

13 replies »

  1. I love seeing so many wonderful reviews about this book. As soon as I can finish my two current reads (hopefully today or tomorrow), I’ll be able to pick up my e-ARC of The Adventures of Amina al-Sirafi, because I really can’t wait to read it.

    Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Fantastic review, Becky! I was already excited about this one but reading about how much you loved it has made me even more impatient to get my hands on it asap. Although it doesn’t seem like there are big links to her Daevabad series aside from being set in the same world, do you reckon that needs to be read first to understand the world-building or would it be fine to just dive into this one?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Dini! This can be read separate of her Daevabad series. The links are only small and I think are more thrown in for fans of the first series to enjoy, rather than ensuring you need to read it first. I definitely think you will enjoy this one & can’t wait to see what you think 😀


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