The Adventures of Amina al-Sirafi

- Shannon Chakraborty


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?


solid, good read:

Since reading the Daevabad Trilogy two years ago, I’ve been very much looking forward to Chakraborty's next book, and The Adventures of Amina al-Sirafi did not disappoint.

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 sea-beast 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.

As expected, the level of research and detail that Chakraborty packed into this book is truly incredible. Setting a rich backdrop, these characters are complex and honest, making some very unrealistic situations feel totally plausible. It makes it easy to take marriages to demons and mind control krakens in stride when everything else is set so solidly in a familiar world. Sometimes this makes for a dense read, but the rewards are worth it.

I absolutely loved Amina. I found her life and her struggles timeless and relatable. I appreciated how Chakraborty didn’t just place this strong female character in a stereotypical and historically male position. She took every opportunity to make it clear that Amina was not the only woman at this time who felt restricted by the expectations placed on her gender due to her culture, religion, and this time in history. Instead of looking down on other women who didn’t, or weren’t able to, take the radical steps she did to be (somewhat) free, she went out of her way, often putting herself in danger, to help and support where she could. As Amina tells her story, her commentary on suppression and the inequality of the time is a very intentional and not-so-subtle part of setting the scene. It helps to explain everything from how she chooses her crew, to the jobs she takes and the routes she sails, to how she finds herself married to a demon.

For this scribe has read a great many of these accounts and taken away another lesson: that to be a woman is to have your story misremembered. Discarded. Twisted. In courtyard tales, women are the adulterous wives whose treachery begins a husband's descent into murderous madness or the long-suffering mothers who give birth to proper heroes. Biographers polish away the jagged edges of capable, ruthless queens so they may be remembered as saints, and geographers warn believing men away from such and such a place with scandalous tales of lewd local females who cavort in the sea and ravish foreign interlopers. Women are the forgotten spouses and unnamed daughters. Wet nurses and handmaidens; thieves and harlots. Witches. A titillating anecdote to tell your friends back home or a warning.

The way The Adventures of Amina al-Sirafi is written (part-historical account, part-interview, and part-storybook) did take me out of the story at times. Most of the time, it felt like being right inside Amina’s thoughts, but others felt a few too many steps removed. Not to mention the fact that Amina was telling this story to a scribe after it happened took away any true sense of danger. Not that a series named after her wasn’t enough of a hint that she’d probably make it through, but it’s one thing for it to be in the title and another for it to be constantly in your face as part of the narrative.

The reveal of who the scribe was in the end, though, now that was good.

For when Amina chose to leave her home and return to a life at sea, she became more than a pirate. More than a witch.

She became a legend.

I’m very much looking forward to the next book in this series. Our introduction to Dalila, Tinbu, and Majed was just enough to want so much more.

Not to mention how excited I am to get to know Jamal after that ending.

I’m very intrigued with how this series has been set up and can’t wait to go on another adventure with Amina. In the meantime, The Adventures of Amina al-Sirafi has made me very keen to revisit the Daevabad Trilogy, so it may be time for a reread.



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