Firuz-e Jafari is fortunate enough to have immigrated to the Free Democratic City-State of Qilwa, fleeing the slaughter of other traditional Sassanian blood magic practitioners in their homeland. Despite the status of refugees in their new home, Firuz has a good job at a free healing clinic in Qilwa, working with Kofi, a kindly new employer, and mentoring Afsoneh, a troubled orphan refugee with powerful magic.
But Firuz and Kofi have discovered a terrible new disease which leaves mysterious bruises on its victims. The illness is spreading quickly through Qilwa, and there are dangerous accusations of ineptly performed blood magic. In order to survive, Firuz must break a deadly cycle of prejudice, untangle sociopolitical constraints, and find a fresh start for their both their blood and found family.
***Thanks to NetGalley and Tachyon Publications for an eARC of this book. The following review is my honest reflection on the text provided.
enjoyable/easy to read:
In a narrative that’s as awkward as our protagonist, I appreciated the commentary on identity, probably more than the story deserves.
Unfortunately, I don’t think The Bruising of Qilwa is long enough to meet the expectations Jamnia sets. There is so much to cover; refugees, colonisation, and overcoming history are the first group of big-ticket items we’re introduced to, but this is quickly followed by trans and non-binary talking points. I liked that pronouns weren’t a big issue, but gender reassignment is definitely more complicated – and yet less complicated, depending on where you live in our world. This feeling of more or less or maybe not complicated is one I felt a lot throughout The Bruising of Qilwa. Because, despite everything we’re already juggling, let’s throw in acceptable magics vs cursed/possibly illegal blood magic, a plague, a mysterious disease, a surprise untrained orphan mage, and family problems. Did I mention that book is less than 200 pages?
Blood would always tell, and its capacity to heal the body and fight off disease would forever impress them. What else could it do that they'd yet to discover?
While Firuz’s awkwardness never wanes, their pure goodness made it easier to stomach. Feeling guilty for every decision made is not an easy way to go through life. Beautifully written, I never wondered what the setting was like – Jamnia has a gift for placing you somewhere and making it real in every way. I wish more of this was directed towards the magic/fantasy parts of the read – it did feel shuffled to the side sometimes to make way for everything else going on. I think Jamnia did an impressive job for the length of this story, but I wish it was longer and more fully fleshed out.