cover image The Bloodprint

The Bloodprint

Ausma Zehanat Khan. Harper Voyager, $16.99 trade paper (448p) ISBN 978-0-06-245919-0

Inspired by Middle Eastern history and legends, this ambitious but often muddled opening volume of the Khorasan Archives heroic fantasy series (a departure from Khan’s debut, the mystery novel The Unquiet Dead) uneasily attempts to address several weighty issues, including religion, the rights of women, and the age-old conflict between heart’s desires and duty’s claims. Arian is First Oralist of the Companions of Hira. The companions preserve the sacred heritage of the Claim, scripture that encompasses both religion and magic. For 10 years Arian has rejected the love of handsome Daniyar, aka the Silver Mage, instead devoting herself to rescuing caravans of women from slave traders in a desert land overrun by the cruel Talisman, a male-dominated movement loosely patterned after today’s repressive Taliban. During many adventures in pursuit of an artifact called the Bloodprint, Daniyar saves Arian and her apprentice, Sinnia, from horrifying tortures, and Arian comes to realize her quest is more personal than political. This colorful narrative is distractingly strewn with foggy capitalized concepts (eventually codified in an extensive glossary) and weighed down with religious excerpts from the Claim. It denounces harsh religion-based restrictions, deplores a growing disregard for the written word, and tangentially memorializes historical real-world massacres. A deep discussion of whether one sacred word can mean both “peace” and “submission” encapsulates the confusion of both Khan’s heroine and her sympathetic, occasionally perplexed readers. (Oct.)