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THE ADVENTURES OF AMINA AL-SIRAFI

Sheer joy, with quirky characters, spooky monsters, sprightly banter, and swashbuckling that puts Sindbad to shame.

Awards & Accolades

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2023


  • New York Times Bestseller

A middle-aged mother in medieval Oman is convinced to return to her former career—piracy—in the first of an epic fantasy series.

A decade ago, nakhudha (shipmaster) Amina al-Sirafi abandoned the criminal seafaring life on the Indian Ocean after a terrible incident involving Raksh, the demonic husband she unwittingly married, and Asif, a member of her crew. But her quiet life with her half-human daughter, Marjana, in a remote, dilapidated mountain home is disrupted by a visit from Asif’s wealthy mother, who persuades, guilt-trips, and eventually threatens Amina into returning to her ship and reuniting her crew. She offers Amina an incredible sum to rescue Asif’s teenage daughter, Dunya, apparently kidnapped by Falco Palamenestra, a Frankish (i.e., Italian) ex-Crusader with an unhealthy interest in magical artifacts. Thus begins a wild adventure in pursuit of Dunya, Falco, and a mysterious and incredibly dangerous magical treasure known as the Moon of Saba. Fans of Chakraborty’s Daevabad books will appreciate an incident late in the novel that confirms that this series is set in the same universe, albeit several centuries earlier; however, that knowledge is not necessary to enjoy this story. Over the past few years, several social media threads have lamented the lack of middle-aged mothers as fantasy heroes, arguing that they would make for great protagonists: They're fierce and seasoned but forced to confront the conflicting needs of their familial, personal, professional, and social responsibilities, circumstances that many men—particularly not your young, inexperienced hero or your grizzled loner veteran—would not face. Chakraborty has clearly leaped to answer the call, and to very good effect. Amina exists in a society where women are expected to stay home and tend to family. She’s tried that life: She loves Marjana and would do anything to keep her safe. But once she goes forth again, Amina remembers how much she loves the sea and risking everything in search of adventure and profit. Balancing those two loves has the potential to tear her apart and will no doubt serve as a major point of tension in upcoming installments.

Sheer joy, with quirky characters, spooky monsters, sprightly banter, and swashbuckling that puts Sindbad to shame.

Pub Date: March 7, 2023

ISBN: 9780062963505

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Harper Voyager

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2023

FOURTH WING

From the Empyrean series , Vol. 1

Read this for the action-packed plot, not character development or worldbuilding.

On the orders of her mother, a woman goes to dragon-riding school.

Even though her mother is a general in Navarre’s army, 20-year-old Violet Sorrengail was raised by her father to follow his path as a scribe. After his death, though, Violet's mother shocks her by forcing her to enter the elite and deadly dragon rider academy at Basgiath War College. Most students die at the War College: during training sessions, at the hands of their classmates, or by the very dragons they hope to one day be paired with. From Day One, Violet is targeted by her classmates, some because they hate her mother, others because they think she’s too physically frail to succeed. She must survive a daily gauntlet of physical challenges and the deadly attacks of classmates, which she does with the help of secret knowledge handed down by her two older siblings, who'd been students there before her. Violet is at the mercy of the plot rather than being in charge of it, hurtling through one obstacle after another. As a result, the story is action-packed and fast-paced, but Violet is a strange mix of pure competence and total passivity, always managing to come out on the winning side. The book is categorized as romantasy, with Violet pulled between the comforting love she feels from her childhood best friend, Dain Aetos, and the incendiary attraction she feels for family enemy Xaden Riorson. However, the way Dain constantly undermines Violet's abilities and his lack of character development make this an unconvincing storyline. The plots and subplots aren’t well-integrated, with the first half purely focused on Violet’s training, followed by a brief detour for romance, and then a final focus on outside threats.

Read this for the action-packed plot, not character development or worldbuilding.

Pub Date: May 2, 2023

ISBN: 9781649374042

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Red Tower

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2024

IRON FLAME

From the Empyrean series , Vol. 2

Unrelenting, and not in a good way.

A young Navarrian woman faces even greater challenges in her second year at dragon-riding school.

Violet Sorrengail did all the normal things one would do as a first-year student at Basgiath War College: made new friends, fell in love, and survived multiple assassination attempts. She was also the first rider to ever bond with two dragons: Tairn, a powerful black dragon with a distinguished battle history, and Andarna, a baby dragon too young to carry a rider. At the end of Fourth Wing (2023), Violet and her lover, Xaden Riorson, discovered that Navarre is under attack from wyvern, evil two-legged dragons, and venin, soulless monsters that harvest energy from the ground. Navarrians had always been told that these were monsters of legend and myth, not real creatures dangerously close to breaking through Navarre’s wards and attacking civilian populations. In this overly long sequel, Violet, Xaden, and their dragons are determined to find a way to protect Navarre, despite the fact that the army and government hid the truth about these creatures. Due to the machinations of several traitorous instructors at Basgiath, Xaden and Violet are separated for most of the book—he’s stationed at a distant outpost, leaving her to handle the treacherous, cutthroat world of the war college on her own. Violet is repeatedly threatened by her new vice commandant, a brutal man who wants to silence her. Although Violet and her dragons continue to model extreme bravery, the novel feels repetitive and more than a little sloppy, leaving obvious questions about the world unanswered. The book is full of action and just as full of plot holes, including scenes that are illogical or disconnected from the main narrative. Secondary characters are ignored until a scene requires them to assist Violet or to be killed in the endless violence that plagues their school.

Unrelenting, and not in a good way.

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2023

ISBN: 9781649374172

Page Count: 640

Publisher: Red Tower

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2024

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