Are you looking for a swashbuckling pirate story that has both historical and fantasy elements?
The Adventures of Amina al-Sarafi follows Amina, a retired, middle-aged pirate. She lives far away from society in order to keep her young daughter safe and away from the haunts of her past. But when an old woman (the mother of a former crewman) comes to her door claiming her granddaughter was kidnapped, Amina finds it to be a job she can’t refuse. With the promise of making a fortune that will secure her daughter’s future, Amina comes out of retirement to dive back into her pirate life and finds herself facing the greatest adventure, and threat, of her life that might just leave her a legend.
I absolutely loved the vibes of this book. The first half has a very strong historical fiction feel with very little fantasy elements, and you can tell Chakroborty did a phenomenal amount of historical research. The second half is very action-packed and becomes high fantasy very quickly. But the whole book has a strong feel of adventure and danger, which is perfect for a pirate story!
Amina is a fun main character with a strong voice. I love the fact that she’s older and has to come out of retirement. I love how she reconnects with her old crew. And I also love how she’s a mother, which plays a large part in her motivations. Amina is Muslim, and her reckoning with her religion also plays a large part in the story.
Additionally, I like how the story is set up as an oral tradition. Amina is telling the story to an unknown someone (we find out at the end), and there are even tidbits of letters and info placed between chapters.
I will say, the first half of this book is a little slow. Chakroborty takes her time setting everything up, and I kept wondering, When does this become a fantasy book? A lot of the side characters felt a little flat, but I really enjoyed the character of Dunya, the missing granddaughter. This definitely would’ve been a 5-star read if the first half didn’t drag quite as much.
Additional aspects I liked:
- If you couldn’t tell from the cover, there’s a kraken-like creature that makes an appearance.
- Pirates of the Caribbean plus Life of Pi vibes
- Plenty of comedic moments and conversations
- There’s a demon with a vibrant personality
- Emphasis on myths and legends, alongside storytelling