Naseem Jamnia, The Bruising of Qilwa
Naseem Jamnia, The Bruising of Qilwa, Tachyon Publications, 2022.
The Bruising of Qilwa is an intricate secondary-world Persian-inspired fantasy novella.
Firuz emigrated with their mother and their younger brother to Qilwa, fleeing the massacres of blood-magic practioners in their homeland. Qilwa isn't that kind to refugees though, there's a plague going, and Firuz must hide that they're themself a blood-magic adept. They find a job at a clinic but their life becomes complicated: taking care of the sick people of Qilwa, taking care of their own family, and mentoring a homeless girl.
The Bruising of Qilwa introduces a very rich world: the relationship between the city-state of Qilwa and Sassan where Firuz comes from and its impact on the refugees, the different magical traditions and how they're perceived, and a queer normative society.
Despite the importance of the social and political background, I really enjoyed the fact that this wasn't a story taking place in gilded halls. We're told the story of ordinary people, living in precarious conditions and dealing with the consequences of decisions they have no influence on.
The Bruising of Qilwa is both a delight to read and at times a bit frustrating. Jamnia has a lot to tell and I sometimes wished the story was a tad longer to allow for it to breathe properly.
The characters are interesting. I enjoyed Firuz and how their sense of duty stretched them between the clinic where they worked and their family. It was easy to empathise with their fears, with everything that held them back, while it provided at the same time a lot of the tension, in particular when it came to their fraught relationship with their brother.
The other characters are a bit more quickly drawn. Again, I found myself a bit frustrated the story wasn't a tad longer so that we could know them better. There are some brilliant strokes of the brush though, for instance when Jamnia describes two mothers grieving in different ways.
The Bruising of Qilwa is an introduction to a world I'll happily visit again in a new story. Although some aspects left me a bit frustrated, I enjoyed a lot meeting those characters and diving into this universe.
Disclaimer: a free copy was received but with no obligation attached to review it.
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I only review stories I have liked even if my opinion may be nuanced. It doesn't apply for the "Novels published before 1978" series of blog posts.
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