The Bloodprint – Ausma Zehanat Khan

Paperback, 448 pages
Expected publication: October 3rd 2017 by Harper Voyager
Source: Author

Before I begin what essentially will be a panegyric, please go and read the interview Ausma did with us.

Welcome back. Now, I could tell you what the book is about or I could give you the official synopsis. I will opt for the latter because it does a far better job than I ever will be able to. So here it is:

A dark power called the Talisman has risen in the land, born of ignorance and persecution. Led by a man known only known as the One-eyed Preacher, it is a cruel and terrifying movement bent on world domination—a superstitious patriarchy that suppresses knowledge and subjugates women. And it is growing.

But there are those who fight the Talisman’s spread, including the Companions of Hira, a diverse group of influential women whose power derives from the Claim—the magic inherent in the words of a sacred scripture. Foremost among them is Arian and her apprentice, Sinnia, skilled warriors who are knowledgeable in the Claim. This daring pair have long stalked Talisman slave-chains, searching for clues and weapons to help them battle their enemy’s oppressive ways. Now, they may have discovered a miraculous symbol of hope that can destroy the One-eyed Preacher and his fervid followers: The Bloodprint, a dangerous text the Talisman has tried to erase from the world.

Finding a copy of The Bloodprint promises to be their most dangerous undertaking yet, an arduous journey that will lead them deep into Talisman territory. Though they will be helped by allies—a loyal ex-slave and Arian’s former confidante and sword master—both Arian and Sinnia know that this mission may well be their last.

Though The Bloodprint is essentially fantasy and happening in a fantastic world, the parallels are obvious and the concerns and themes it works with contemporary and relevant. But let’s begin at the beginning and work our way from there.

The prose is masterful; the writing seeks out the details and finagles out the emotion in them. Observe, for instance:

A startled cry rose from the long line of women, robed in the sorrowful blue of dusk, their pale eyes tasting light for the first time that day.

Arian and Sinnia are two women against the world but what I most loved about their companionship and the world in which they exist is that their gender does not automatically make them weak no matter how much the enemy wants it to. This particular brand of feminism is different from the kind the West is used and has a lot more layers and is much complex containing as it does both the feminine mystique and, the more expected, strength both mental and physical.

Arian’s strength comes from her position as the first Oralist of the group she belongs to and her ability to recite the Claim. Which brings me to the next thing I loved about this book.

Islam is very much pilloried on a global stage and often by people who know little to nothing about the religion and allow their own prejudices to form uninformed opinions about it. That said, this book presents facets of the religion in interesting ways that you may have not considered. It explores how people can take the same text and form two different and often diverging conclusions based off it. It shows how people can take a religion hostage and exploit it to fulfill their own greedy agenda and much more sinister ambitions.

I also loved how the Claim, the sacred language in The Bloodprint is actual translated verses from the Quran. This gives a story an additional depth and a deeper flavour.

The Bloodprint is not an easy book to read. It has pain and shows the brutality human beings are capable of. At the same time, it has pockets of uncomplicated happiness that is flavoured by sadness for its brevity.

Arian, Sinnia, Daniyar and Wafa are all such complex characters who, no matter their power, still seem helpless against the world they are rebelling against. The Bloodprint is an excellent introduction to a complex world that, for all its fantasy, is an echo of ours. You should read it.