Thank you to Tachyon Publications/NetGalley for a copy of The Bruising of Qilwa in exchange for an honest review.


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 both their blood and found family. — from the publisher. 

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That’s … it?

Naseem Jamnia can write. The way they use words is powerful and their Persian-Americanness shines through their syntax. After reading Jamnia’s author’s note at the end of The Bruising of Qilwa, the entire novel — novella, really — made sense in retrospect. They intended to write a fantasy book that utilized their background in science, but it morphed into an examination of being an oppressed person whose people were once oppressors. Sounds gripping, right? 

Unfortunately, these ideas are woefully underdeveloped and just don’t shine through the way they should. Concepts that deep deserve room to breathe. At only about 40,000 words, I’m not sure The Bruising of Qilwa ever had room to let them.

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As it is, the plot and the pacing fall flat. Jamnia spends the first three-quarters of the book on world-building, only to rush through the actual plot in the last quarter. That said, it is a cool world — a queernormative, magical society with Persian inspiration. I mean, it’s also got genocide, refugees and poverty, so there’s that. But it’s an important reminder that lack of queerphobia is not equal to utopia.   

I’m happy to learn that this is only the first book set in this world. Hopefully, next go around Jamnia can spend more time developing the story. I do plan on reading the next book, whenever it comes out. 

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Should you read it?

This is a book I so badly wanted to love — Jamnia seems like a wonderful human — and we have a lot in common. Unfortunately, this book just didn’t do enough for me. What I can recommend, however, is hopping over to Jamnia’s website and checking out their other writing. Their articles truly are fantastic. I mean, even though The Bruising of Qilwa didn’t leave me with a grand impression, I can’t stop thinking about Jamnia’s author’s note.  

The Bruising of Qilwa is out August 9. Pick this up after Jamnia releases other books set in the world. 

Content warnings provided by the author: “Medical racism, ethnically motivated violence, former colonization/empire, descriptions of a refugee/migration crisis, mentions of genocide, discussions/handling of a plague, child death, disordered eating behavior, mostly mild self-harm (for magic reasons), body dysmorphia from gender dysphoria (and related medical transitions), discussions of trauma, including past (childhood) physical abuse (for magic reasons), implied child neglect and body horror, including graphic descriptions of corpses.”


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