Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed – Book Review
Saladin Ahmed’s first foray into novel territory is the sharply written sword & sorcery fantasy with a distinct Arabian/Middle Eastern flair. While Arabian fantasy is certainly no stranger to the mainstream Saladin manages to write a rousing epic in such a distinct setting and style that marks him out amidst the European castles and medieval armor of knights that permeate the genre.
Doctor Adoulla Makhslood is the one of the last of an ancient order of ghul-hunters. Mages tasked with powerful holy invocations and spells meant to do battle against the forces of the Traitorous Angel and the numerous ghul-raisers and dark creatures that afflict the Crescent Moon Kingdoms. Far from the usual fair of fantasy, Adoulla is old, fat, and ornery, who reads as such an honest and real character that you can’t help but be charmed by his rude gestures and grouchy wit.
Assistant/Partner to Adoulla is Raseed bas Raseed, a member of the Order of Dervishes who was sent to the Doctor to gain real-world application and experience as he trains to be a more devout holy warrior. The by-the-book dervish is often uptight and naïve in the actual workings of the city-streets, much to the amusement and chagrin of Adoulla. Yet conflict stirs deep within Raseed as romance blooms and he discovers his devotion to the Khalif and to the Holy Scripture may be too rigid for reality and the difficult decisions that need to be made.
Rounding out our trio is Zamia Banu Laith Badawi, the last survivor of the Badawi band of tribesmen that roam the deserts. One of the “instruments of God’s Ministering Angels’,” Zamia is able to shift into a golden lioness with silvery claws and teeth and incredible power against the ghuls and foul magics of the Traitorous Angel. She is sworn to avenge her band and destroy the evil force that brutally murdered her family, and joins the Doctor to complete this task.
The plot of the servants of the Traitorous Angel as they seek to gain control of ancient death-magics is only one facet to this story. Meanwhile, in their city of Dhamaswaat the Falcon Prince, Pharaad Az Hammaz, is a Robin Hood-type benefactor of the poor and thief to the rich and eternal enemy to the corrupt and evil Khalif of all the Crescent Moon Kingdoms, Jabbari akh-Khaddari.
The story is interspersed with encounters and news of the Falcon Prince as he sows discord and seeks to upset the established order and bring wealth and medicine to the poorest of families in the city. His final plan, to invade the palace and depose the Khalif runs parallel to the plans of Adoulla and co. as they seek to stop the evil magus Orshado from unleashing the death and war magic.
It’s clear in his writing that Saladin takes enormous pride in his heritage and the cultures of the Middle East. So much so that his writing is overflowing with the feel of that wonderful culture. Through his writing Saladin was able to take me to the Crescent Moon Kingdoms, and instead of it being a strange culture that I had to learn – much as with other fantasy novels set in exotic locales – Saladin managed to make me feel as though I belonged/had lived in this city and that Dhamaswaat was real.
For anyone that is looking for a brief respite…no, for anyone that is a fan of fantasy you should read this novel and continue Saladin’s career as he delves deeper into the Crescent Moon Kingdoms. Fantasy should not be limited to the vague European-stereotypes that are so often cast upon the genre. Our world is rich and vast in culture and possibilities, if only more authors would tap those resources instead of the same old, worn point in history we’re so used to.
From Saladin Ahmed, finalist for the Nebula and Campbell Awards, comes one of the year’s most anticipated fantasy debuts, THRONE OF THE CRESCENT MOON, a fantasy adventure with all the magic of The Arabian Nights.
The Crescent Moon Kingdoms, land of djenn and ghuls, holy warriors and heretics, Khalifs and killers, is at the boiling point of a power struggle between the iron-fisted Khalif and the mysterious master thief known as the Falcon Prince. In the midst of this brewing rebellion a series of brutal supernatural murders strikes at the heart of the Kingdoms. It is up to a handful of heroes to learn the truth behind these killings:
Doctor Adoulla Makhslood, “The last real ghul hunter in the great city of Dhamsawaat,” just wants a quiet cup of tea. Three score and more years old, he has grown weary of hunting monsters and saving lives, and is more than ready to retire from his dangerous and demanding vocation. But when an old flame’s family is murdered, Adoulla is drawn back to the hunter’s path.
Raseed bas Raseed, Adoulla’s young assistant, a hidebound holy warrior whose prowess is matched only by his piety, is eager to deliver God’s justice. But even as Raseed’s sword is tested by ghuls and manjackals, his soul is tested when he and Adoulla cross paths with the tribeswoman Zamia.
Zamia Badawi, Protector of the Band, has been gifted with the near-mythical power of the Lion-Shape, but shunned by her people for daring to take up a man’s title. She lives only to avenge her father’s death. Until she learns that Adoulla and his allies also hunt her father’s killer. Until she meets Raseed.
When they learn that the murders and the Falcon Prince’s brewing revolution are connected, the companions must race against time–and struggle against their own misgivings–to save the life of a vicious despot. In so doing they discover a plot for the Throne of the Crescent Moon that threatens to turn Dhamsawaat, and the world itself, into a blood-soaked ruin.