The Bladebone by Ausma Zehanat Khan, published by Harper Collins, brings to a conclusion the four book series “The Khorasan Archives”. In this final instalment Khan pulls together all the threads she’s woven into her story to create a finale worthy of the story spun by the first three books.
Over the course of the series Khan not only managed to create a unique and exciting world where magic and belief go hand in hand but introduced us to an array of fascinating characters. From the central protagonists, Arian and Sinnia (Both members of a women’s warrior/mage order whose mission is to preserve the texts that are sacred to the people of the Khorasan peninsula) to the villain, The One Eyed Preacher, who wants to bring the entire region under his autocratic rule.
The Bladebone, is not only a great adventure story it also does a great job of showing how even the most beautiful of ideas or beliefs can be corrupted by those who wish to exploit faith in the name of power. The One Eyed Preacher and Arian – and her allies – employ the same texts for their magic.
However, while the former seeks to rule by keeping his subjects in ignorance through destroying anything written down, the latter does their best to ensure knowledge is preserved and alive for everyone to make use of. While Arian and her allies are fighting the One Eyed Preacher and his armies for physical control of their lands, they are also waging a war against hatred and the twisting of language for the purpose of domination and coercion.
While the previous books in the quartet developed this theme, in The Bladebone, its brought to the forefront. When Arian finally confronts the One Eyed Preacher directly the battle is as much about winning a metaphysical conflict as a physical one. While the Preacher tries to use words as blunt instruments to impose his will, Arian allows their deeper meanings and ambiguities to flourish.
In the process of telling the story Khan makes the incredibly important point of how there is no black and white in faith and language. Subtlety and nuance are more important than bald statements. While the latter might sound strong they are a veneer only and break under close scrutiny.
The fact that The Bladebone and the rest of the series take place in a world based on Islamic beliefs and stories instead of the Eurocentric world view we normally associate with fantasy adds an extra element to the story. Not only does it widen reader’s perspective when it comes to a world view – strong female warrior/scholar/mages are not something most of us associate with Islam – it also makes the series a strong rebuttal of extremist versions of the faith.
Khan isn’t subtle about this either. Naming the army of One Eye Preacher “The Talismen” makes it pretty clear what she thinks of The Taliban and IS, or anybody who wants to use Islam to control people by claiming their way is the only way.
The Bladebone is a satisfactory conclusion to a series sustains readers interest over the course of four books by gradually building tension and spinning intricate subplots into a complex and intriguing story. Khan not only created an interesting world populated by multidimensional characters in a great story, along the way she managed to teach valuable lessons about the power of words and faith.
The Bladebone by Ausma Zehanat Khan is a wonderful read and the perfect conclusion to a great series of books. Read all four books in the Khorasan Archives and be prepared to be amazed.