“I loved this gorgeous book about blood magic, chosen family and refugees in a hostile city. Naseem Jamnia has created a rich, complex world.”
—Charlie Jane Anders, author of All the Birds in the Sky
[STARRED REVIEW] “A delight to read. Highly recommended.”
In this intricate debut fantasy introducing a queernormative Persian-inspired world, a nonbinary refugee practitioner of blood magic discovers a strange disease that causes political rifts in their new homeland. Persian-American author Naseem Jamnia has crafted a gripping narrative with a moving, nuanced exploration of immigration, gender, healing, and family. Powerful and fascinating, The Bruising of Qilwa is the newest arrival in the era of fantasy classics such as the Broken Earth Trilogy, The Four Profound Weaves, and Who Fears Death.
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.
Jamnia mixes magic and real-world conflict in their inventive but uneven debut fantasy. As a Sassanian and a practitioner of blood magic, Firuz-e Jafari is unjustly blamed for the plague sweeping their homeland of Dilmun, and they flee to the Free Democratic City State of Qilwa for refuge, where they hide their magic in order to protect themselves. They find work as an assistant to benevolent healer Kofi Nadifa, but just as they're settling in, the discoveries of a series of rotting bodies spark fear of another plague. When Kofi's patient Ahmed falls ill to the disease, Firuz throws caution to the wind by attempting to heal him with their blood magic but they fail and Ahmed dies. Accused of his murder, Firuz must find a way to prove themselves innocent and end the bias against Sassanians. It's a short, propulsive tale that admirably centers a strong queer protagonist and offers thought-provoking commentary on the struggles of refugees. The storytelling, though, can feel a bit rushed, with conflicts dismissed almost as soon as they're introduced. Still, there's plenty to enjoy for readers of LGBTQ fantasy. Agent: Erica Bauman, Aevitas Creative Management.