Review: “The Bruising of Qilwa” by Naseem Jamnia

Release Date: August 9, 2022
Publisher: Tachyon Publications
Genre: Fantasy


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.

My Thoughts

Despite its short length, the world building in The Bruising of Qilwa is exquisite and original. Jamnia doesn’t give a lot of detail about the world or its political and cultural histories, yet the story feels vast. It’s as if this is an excerpt from a larger book about Firuz’s life as a refugee and immi­grant. The magic system is especially intriguing, and Jamnia gives readers several scenes of Firuz, Afsoneh, and the antagonist manipulating the physical world with their magic. We see how it interacts with (and often overpowers) the hu­man body, how it connects people to each other and their community, how it gives freedom and demands isolation in equal measure, how it can be a tool to aid, a medicine to treat, or a weapon to harm.

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