Book review: Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed

OnAPaleStar February 15, 2012 No Comments »
Throne of the Crescent MoonThrone of the Crescent Moon
Saladin Ahmed
Fantasy
February 2012
DAW
ISBN: 978-0-7564-0711-7
274 pages
hard cover
accquired: purchased
Cross posted from On a Pale Star.

The blurb, from Goodreads:
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.

The Review:

Throne of the Crescent Moon opens with an enjoyable morning for Doctor Adoulla Makhslood, one of the last ghul hunters, and the last such in the city of Dhamsawaat. He’s had a long life, has fought monsters for most of it, and what he wants–and what he knows won’t last long, if his history holds true–is to just relax and have a peaceful cup of tea.

Adoulla is a good man, a very very good man, who has a wonderfully earthy attitude. A page into his point of view and I had a great deal of affection for him. His sense of humor, fatalism, and faith instantly sucked me in, and I found myself wanting a cranky, funny, tired, and strong Adoulla is my own life. He reminded me of composite of my uncles, with the added kick-ass ability to destroy the monsters that roam the world.

A perfect foil for Adoulla is the devout and straight-as-an-arrow Raseed bas Raseed, a dervish who, until his apprenticeship to Adoulla two years prior to the story, had seen precious little of the real world, living the sheltered life of a monk. Raseed’s idealistic, black and white view of the world clashes often with the worn practicality of Adoulla’s attitude and perspective. It’s the vitality and naivete of youthful inexperience against the jaded and nuanced view of an old man’s experience. It could be trite, but Ahmed writes them both so well that it feels completely natural.

Raseed and Adoulla come across Lamia Banu Laith Badawi, the Protector of the Band, a young woman who has been touched by Angels and given the ability to shift into the shape of a lioness. She’s on a mission to avenge the deaths of her people, killed by the beings that Adoulla and Raseed are hunting. Lamia is driven by revenge and grief over the loss of her family and band, which has the potential to come across as simple and two-dimensional, but as Adoulla gets to know her, and as the point of view shifts to Lamia, we realize how complex a person she is.

The point of view of the novel starts off with Adoulla, and later shifts to the other major characters, who all are well rounded and believable people. I’m not always a fan of a rotating point of view in novels, but it was handled well here, so no complaints from me.

There is more, of course, to the novel than the characters. I just keep going on about them because I got quite attached. The pace, despite Adoulla’s internal grumblings, is quite fast, giving Adoulla, Raseed, Lamia, and their companions barely time to recover from setbacks and injuries. There are ghuls of different varieties, human monsters, a political crisis, and on the edges, romance. There’s a lot going on here, and it’s woven together beautifully.

Throne of the Crescent Moon is the first book in a planned trilogy, and after reading it, I’m impatient to read the next installment. I enjoyed it thoroughly, and encourage everyone to check it out.

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