The Bruising of Qilwa
by Naseem Jamnia
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Pub Date 09 Aug 2022 | Archive Date Not set
—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.
A Note From the Publisher
Jamnia is the managing editor at Sword & Kettle Press, an independent publishing house of inclusive feminist speculative fiction. They are also the former managing editor at Sidequest.Zone, an independent gaming criticism website. A Persian-Chicagoan and child to Iranian immigrants, Jamnia now lives in Reno with their husband, dog, and two cats. Find out at more at www.naseemwrites.com or on Twitter and Instagram @jamsternazzy.
“I loved this gorgeous book about blood magic, chosen family and refugees in a hostile city. Naseem Jamnia has created a rich, complex world in a very short space, and I am so into it. I’ve read a lot of books lately about empires and rulers and warfare, and it’s so refreshing to read a book that’s about healers. People in this book are trans, nonbinary, asexual and aromantic, and it's never a big deal but does matter to their characters, which I just adore.”
—Charlie Jane Anders, author of All the Birds in the Sky
“Naseem Jamnia is a bold, visionary writer and The Bruising of Qilwa makes for a superb introduction to their nuanced and evocative Persian-inspired fantasy. The good news is that there are many more brilliant novels already in this writer’s literary quiver. Get ready for them; they’re coming! Jamnia is fierce and dangerous—in all the best ways.”
—David Anthony Durham, author of the Acacia Trilogy
“Naseem Jamnia’s brilliant and insightful novella, The Bruising of Qilwa, explores questions of identity and belonging in a nuanced medical mystery.”
“I adored this city, with its vibrant history and super-fresh magic system, but I loved these astonishing complex vivid characters even more.”
—Sam J. Miller, author of Boys, Beasts & Men
“With prose that reads like lush poetry, The Bruising of Qilwa builds an intricate world full of history, magic, and life.”
—Z. R. Ellor, author of Silk Fire
“A fascinating medical mystery in a rich, complex world I didn’t want to leave.”
—S. A. Chakraborty, author of The City of Brass
“An incredible experience. I didn’t know world-building in a fantasy story could feel so seamless. That scenes around medical magic could make sense to me and increase my enjoyment of the story is still blowing my mind. The queerness in this book is so natural—no explanations, no phobias, just queer people living their lives.”
—Women Write About Comics
“Read if you like: blood magic, an overall science-based magic system, multicultural setting, healing, plants, sibling dynamics, a celebration of queerness, mentor figures, personal stakes, community, mystery, medicine/medical science, competent characters.”
—A. R. Frederiksen, author of The Deathsea Dyer
“A short, propulsive tale that admirably centers a strong queer protagonist and offers thought-provoking commentary on the struggles of refugees.”
“The Bruising of Qilwa transports you to a lushly-described, beautifully imagined world where magic and medicine meet. “
—Neon Yang, author of the Tensorate series
“The Bruising of Qilwa is a book with enormous heart, gently and skillfully tackling topics ranging from immigration to racism to colonial history.”
—Every Book a Doorway
“A quick, engaging read with real heart and a thoughtful subtext to its immersive setting.”
“An incredibly timely story, told by a deft hand that manages to weave a fascinating magic system together with all-too-real issues into something truly, wonderfully, not seen before. Equal parts slice of life, fantasy tale, medical drama and mystery blend into a book not soon to be forgotten, one that should be on everyone’s tbr!”
—Alice Scott, Barnes & Noble
National marketing plan to include prepublication endorsements from leading authors, review, and media outlets, and general publications for both fantasy and LGBTQIA+ audiences
Author tour to include Bluestockings Bookstore (New York); the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center (New York); Boskone (Boston); the World Science Fiction convention (Chicago); Wiscon (Madison, Wisconsin); Sundance Bookstore (Reno, NV); the Portland Book Festival; and Writers with Drinks (San Francisco)
Online features to include Instagram tour, blog tour, Reddit AMA, and author and publisher social media campaign
Average rating from 44 members
An incredible and lush world featuring a non-binary refugee, blood magic, and a plague that seeps within a city. Naseem Jamnia weaves an exquisite tale within a short span of pages. From protecting found and blood family, to unexpected turns, this story is a must-read. The afterword perfectly wraps up the story
The intersectionality and complicated themes within this book made for an intriguing and incredible read. My only complaint is that it was too short. Yet, they were able to make it impactful. I want this to become a longer work or series. It had such great potential for an already stellar work.
I received a complimentary copy of this book through NetGalley. The opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
Thank you to Tachyon Publishing and Netgalley for an eARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my owb.
This was freaking fantastic!! Loved it so much. I hope Naseem continues to write fantasy and maybe something similar to this but a full length novel. I will wait 😌
The Bruising of Qilwa follows a nonbinary refugee as they leave their home in order to find a safe haven for their family. When they arrive in Qilwa, they find a job as a healer in a free clinic, working for Kofi. As they settle in to their new life, Firuz finds an orphan, Afsoneh, who is also a powerful blood mage and takes her under their wing. Firuz promises to teach her what they know, but only in maximum secrecy. In addition, Firuz and Kofi find new signs of a disease cycling through Qilwa. Rumors of blood magic abound and Firuz is terrified for their family and the consequences of the disease.
This novella was amazing!! I loved it with my whole heart. The way Persian culture influenced this book was beautiful. I loved that the whole cast is QPOC, we need more books and novellas like this one. Also, who doesn't love blood magic!? Sign me the heck up!
The other thing about this world that I think needs to be adapted in every other book stat is the way people introduced themselves. Pronouns were always included. Firuz introduced themselves as "they-Firuz" and I just love seeing pronouns normalized in fantasy. I need more books like this.
I loved the scientific aspects to this! It was so well done and while there is still some magic involved, it never felt like the science was completely unfounded. Which is something important to me as a scientist myself. I really loved seeing Firuz explore their magic and how they investigated the new disease.
This felt like a complete story. I wouldn't mind if it had been longer, mainly because I want more time in this world. The ending made sense and though the pace definitely picked up near the end, it didn't feel rushed. All in all, this is a must read!
The author has a rep breakdown and their own CWs here: https://www.naseemwrites.com/the-brui...
Rep: Refugee BIPOC nonbinary aroace MC with c-PTSD, BIPOC trans male side character, queer BIPOC female side character with c-PTSD, QBIPOC supporting cast, nonbinary side characters that use neopronouns, WLW side pairing, muslim inspired religious characters, chronically-ill side characters.
CWs: medical content, medical trauma, racism, xenophobia, mental illness (c-PTSD), blood, vomit, violence, death, child death, plague. Moderate: dysphoria, colonisation, genocide mentioned, disordered eating, self harm (pricking fingers/hand for blood), past mentions of child abuse, body horror, descriptions of corpses, trauma.
Jamnia is without a doubt a talented writer. They've managed to build such a rich and colorful world from the very first page, and to have such intricate but digestible worldbuilding in a novella is a feat. Firuz, Parviz, Afsoneh, and Kofi were all vibrant characters, the mystery of the blood-bruising as it unfolded at the clinic, the tension between Parviz and Firuz over the limitations of Firuz's own magic knowledge were really well done. I would definitely recommend and would love to see more of what Jamnia has to offer.
“Blood would tell, as it always did.”
THE BRUISING OF QILWA is a queer fantasy novella set in a Persian-inspired world about family (birth and found), caring for the oppressed, and the nuances of imperialism. The story begins when Firuz, a nonbinary blood-mage-in-training, finds work at a free clinic in Qilwa soon after their Sassanian family flees there for safety. They are employed by Kofi, a generous healer and practitioner of environmentalist magic. In his presence, Firuz must perform only structural magic, as their traditional practices are viewed with suspicion. They soon take Afsoneh under their wing, a younger Sassanian girl who has her own exceptionally strong blood magic. As tensions in the city rise over an influx of refugees and a deadly pandemic, Firuz notices that a strange new disease they deem “blood-bruising” is on the rise. They seek to identify the cause and find a cure, all while supporting their family and caring for the many marginalized people who can only find care at Kofi’s clinic.
Y’all. I knew I wanted to read this when I heard “nonbinary blood mage” and this novella totally delivered for me. Jamnia has created a compelling fantasy realm inspired by Iranian history with various cultures and religions, realistic socio-economic conflicts, and an intricate magical system. It’s a queernorm world: Firuz is asexual and aromantic, they were supported in their transition at a young age, their brother Parviz is also trans, gender-affirming care exists as a blend of surgical and magical interventions, and there’s a pair of sapphic moms. There are clear contemporary parallels with how refugees are treated in Qilwa, and Firuz, who is intensely compassionate, wrestles with how their responsibilities to their kin and their broader community are in conflict. The magical healing processes and medical mysteries are fascinating. At the core of the story is a very tender blend of birth and found family with incredibly loyal siblings; both Afsoneh and Parviz are captivating side characters. And I loved how Jamnia leans into the complexities of empires as power shifts between them over time; as the author asks in the afterword, “What does it mean to be oppressed when you were once an oppressor?”
It’s a riveting mystery story that’s deeply queer and centers families who migrate to protect each other in a beautiful way. Thanks to Tachyon Publications for the eARC! This novella is out 8/9.
Content warnings: illness/injury, death, dead bodies, medical experimentation, some gore, gender dysphoria, xenophobia
The description of this story as “intricately layered” is truly so accurate. Through the characters, setting, and plot the themes of colonization, the stigmatization of immigrants, and how people respond to disease are explored in such a profound way. The representation of SWANA people as well as queer and non-binary folks is so well done!
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