The Adventures of Amina al-Sirafi
Shannon Chakraborty is back at Book of the Month.
Shannon Chakraborty is back at Book of the Month.
This swashbuckling pirate captain’s last hurrah will have you clutching for your spyglass, ready to hit the high seas.
First in series
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 savor just a bit more power . . . and the price might be your very soul.
In the name of God, the Most Merciful, the Most Compassionate. Blessings upon His honored Prophet Muhammad, his family, and his followers. Praise be to God, who in His glory created the earth and its diversity of lands and languages, peoples and tongues. In these vast marvels, so numerous a human eye cannot gaze upon more than a sliver, is there not proof of His Magnificence?
And when it comes to marvels . . . let us delight in the adventures of the nakhudha Amina al-Sirafi.
Yes! That Captain Amina al-Sirafi. The smuggler, the pirate. The blasphemer that men of letters accuse of serving up human hearts for her seabeast husband, and the sorceress—for she must be a sorceress, because no female could sail a ship so deftly without the use of forbidden magics—whose appearance somehow both beguiles and repulses. Traders along our fair shores warn against speaking her name as though she is a djinn that might be summoned as such—though, strangely, they have little compunction when it comes to spreading vicious rumors about her body and her sexuality: these things that men obsess over when they hate what they desire and desire what they cannot possess.
I am certain you have heard talk of her. After all, it is tradition for the traveled men of our ummah to share the wonders of the world by creating accounts of their voyages—particularly when those voyages are enlivened by gossip of fearsome female rogues. Many such travelers will swear their accounts are not written to tantalize or entertain—God forbid!—but are intended first and foremost to strengthen the hearts of the faithful and provide evidence of the promised splendor of God’s creation. And yet, as Muslims, are we not told to speak honestly? To ascertain what is truth and beware spreading falsehoods?
And dear sisters . . . what falsehoods.
There’s something about pirates. No matter the time period, form of media, or cultural milieu, there is a near-universal desire to be swept away into shimmery, roiling tides, to smell the salt on the wind, to feel the thrumming of the ocean under our feet. In our collective imagination, pirates are synonymous with adventure—the kind we all yearn to embark upon.
With her previous trilogy, S.A. Chakraborty established herself as one of the most beloved and essential contemporary voices in the fantasy genre. Now as she dips her toes (or rather, plunges headfirst) into the swashbuckling world of pirates, she carves out an even greater space in the hearts of readers.
All that is to say: I can’t imagine anyone who won’t be instantly besotted with The Adventures of Amina al-Sirafi.
With her trademark attention to historical detail, Chakraborty transports us to a vivid and dangerous 14th-century Indian Ocean. Dry-witted and gutsy Amina is living in quasi-peaceful retirement with her young daughter when she is reluctantly pulled back into the game by a threat she can’t afford to ignore, and a mission she can’t seem to refuse.
Menaced by magical creatures (including a fiendishly charming demon) and haunted by follies of her past, Amina must solve ancient riddles, fend off monsters, and survive treacherous waters. But most compelling is how Amina contends with motherhood in all its myriad forms.
The Adventures of Amina al-Sirafi is an exhilarating, profound, and truly unforgettable adventure.
A slow start bc the author is bldg a whole new world and Amina’s true self doesn’t come out until she’s back in the water. This world is like nothing I’ve read before. It’s complex and fascinating
Unlike anything I’ve read before… I loved the adventure! Great vocabulary, historical geography, and developing plot. Albeit a bit violent. Amina is a heroine with true grit! What’s next Chakraborty?
If you like medieval pirate stories as I do, you will love this first installment of a female pirate captain who is enticed out of retirement only to face a conniving sorcerer and mythical demons. ❤️
Delightful. Captain Jack Sparrow if he was a woman who’s too old for this shit. I loved Amina’s character, and all her loyal crew. She’s tough and devoted and her adventures are worthy of legend.
I loved this book so much! SAC is a beautiful writer, and creates the most wonderful stories. This book has everything. Pirates, demons, sailing, threatening old ladies. I could not put it down! 5⭐️