A review by Nalini Haynes
I read the Bruising of Qilwa before moving interstate. Although I intended to write this review in Canberra – a month ago – life got in the way. I still haven’t found the book so I’m writing this from memory without notes. My apologies if I miss anything crucial.
The Bruising of Qilwa is a multilayered story. Central characters are engaging and sympathetic. Firuz-e Jafari, a doctor of sorts, tries to heal people while concealing their blood magic. A younger sibling is distressed because they need gender reassignment procedures that were readily available in their home country for teenagers. However, the doctor doesn’t have necessary skills, money or access. So research is their only hope.
Meanwhile Firuz works in a clinic to help the poor and dispossessed, many of whom are refugees too.
And Firuz’s own people, who are refugees, are targeted for murder by a mysterious foe. As if the local politicians victimising them isn’t enough.
Although the hero’s journey is a whodunnit – who is magically killing locals? – Firuz’s backstory and ruminations reveal a complex international history where genocide has repercussions, invaders become victims and politics cycle through centuries of history. Jasmeen relays these powerful undercurrents as potential evidence or motivation for murders and a real and present danger for Firuz and those Firuz cares about.
Firuz underwent gender reassignment when a teen because they are, I think, asexual. So their body was altered to become androgynous before fleeing genocide. When their sibling struggles and rages and them because he needs the same surgery, Firuz is sympathetic. And afraid. Afraid of injuring or killing their brother.
Side note: I think I sensed some romance in the air for the brother .
Gender is central to these characters. Their dysphoria, their need for gender affirmation while not experiencing the growth of breasts is poignant. And the risks are pertinent to safety on multiple levels.
The Bruising of Qilwa is a short eloquent foray into international politics and gender issues entirely focused on the central characters. These characters are engaging and sympathetic. I highly recommend this novella for all readers and especially for high school literature classes and book clubs for meaty challenging discussion.
Read this story if you enjoyed A Taste Of Gold And Iron.
Rating: 5 stars
Imprint: Tachyon Publications
Format: paperback, 176 pages
Category: whodunnit, political intrigue, refugees, LGBTQIA+, romance, magic