Book Review | The Adventures of Amina Al-Sirafi

Pirates? Magic? Say no more; I’m in!

The Adventures of Amina Al-Sirafi joins the titular character after she’s been retired from piracy for ten years to raise her daughter. But one day a woman arrives with a request Amina can’t say no to: if she recovers this woman’s granddaughter—the child of one of Amina’s former crew members—she will give Amina riches she’s never dreamed of. Amina takes the job, heading off to reunite with some of her old friends for help. But the more she investigates the girl’s disappearance, the more she suspects there is more to the story than she was told. Something otherworldly seems to be afoot, even though Amina had tried to put magic, demons, and spells behind her. And if she isn’t careful, it could sweep her away again before she can return home to her family.

I’ve had a copy of another book by this author on my shelf for a very long time, and I’m kind of kicking myself for never having read her before! Because wow, this was such a fun ride! I don’t even care that it’s the first in a new trilogy, because at this point I’ve stopped pretending I’m seeking more standalones. When series start out this strong, it would be foolish to avoid them just because they’re unfinished.

First off, Amina is truly a fantastic character. She’s got a dry sense of humor, a keen ability to improvise plans, and a fierce loyalty to those she cares about. She’s both prickly and understanding, vicious and soft, ruthless and merciful. I loved her often caustic remarks when things inconvenienced her, even if the overall dialogue in this book occasionally sounds too modern.

The other characters are so cool too. Dalila and Raksh stand out especially, but I also quite liked getting to know Dunya and Tinbu. Also, there’s a cat on the ship named Payasam, and really, names for pets don’t get better than that (for those who don’t know, payasam is a type of rice pudding). I hope that the second book explores all these side characters further.

The villain Falco is an unseen threat for a lot of the story, but he’s still an ominous force. I don’t think he’s the most incredible antagonist I’ve ever seen, but I still enjoyed scenes involving him. His powers are palpable, and his cruelty is chilling.

The magic in this book is also quite cool and strange. The creatures are bizarre and fascinating, and the last act introduced some excellent elements I’m looking forward to learning more about. And the use of magical elements in this otherwise mostly accurate historical setting added a different set of stakes to the fighting and the climax (at least it’s mostly accurate to me, a layperson). The action is thrilling and well-paced, making you feel as if you’re there on the monster-filled waves.

All that aside, I would be remiss to not mention the wonderful audiobook production. The two narrators, Lameece Issaq and Amin El Gamal, really bring this world and the characters to life. And the way this story is framed, with Amina relating her experiences to a scribe called Jamal, is so fun. There are times when Amina, mid-scene, has an aside to Jamal, and the way it’s recorded, as if she’s leaning away from the mic, is brilliant. But really, the entire audiobook was excellent.

In the end, The Adventures of Amina Al-Sirafi was fantastic! Great characters, setting, and plot made for a delightful reading experience. There are plenty of laughs, heartfelt moments, and scares. It’s got its violent scenes (sometimes a little gory, so keep that in mind) but is balanced by the kindness Amina and her friends show each other and to those they have to help. This first book wraps up the first episode of this series with a bang, and you’re left both satisfied and eager to read more. I will certainly read the second book, whenever it comes out!

The Adventures of Amina Al-Sirafi is out today, February 28th, 2023!

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