Shannon Chakraborty follows up her Daevabad trilogy (which started with City of Brass) with more Middle Eastern inspired fantasy. The first of a projected series, The Adventures of Amina Al-Sirafi delivers what the title and cover promise – a rollicking tale of pirates, magic and high seas adventure in the vein of Sinbad. But just to mix things up a bit, Chakraborty puts an aging, retired female pirate captain as the centre of the action.
Former notorious pirate captain Amina Al-Sirafi has been retired for fifteen years. She lives a quiet, anonymous life with her daughter until a wealthy woman from Aden comes to her with an offer she is unable to refuse. Al-Sirafi is asked to track down the woman’s grand-daughter, a girl who is also the daughter of one of Al-Sirafi’s former crewmen. She is offered for a huge reward but also threatened to have her identity revealed to the world if she refuses. The story then centres around Al-Sirafi getting the old band back together for one last mission but soon discovers that magic is involved, and with magic nothing turns out to be that simple. Al-Sirafi falls into her old patterns quickly and realises how much she missed her previous life and the glory that came with it.
The Adventures of Amina Al-Sirafi is a romp from start to finish. All of the elements are here – a magical macguffin, a moustache-twirling villain, monsters, unknowable spirit creatures, a bantering crew, long buried secrets, cliffhangers and reverses. Told with characters who have not often been given centre stage in Western canon and in a setting that tries to be historically accurate. Chakraborty deploys these elements perfectly to deliver a fast paced, action packed tale with more than a little heart. And while some storylines get tied up, she leaves plenty of threads to be picked up in volumes to come.