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4.0 out of 5 stars Exciting fantasy with pseudo-Islamic overtones
I don't normally go for "sword and sorcery" fantasy novels, but I was attracted to this book by the pseudo-Islamic overtones of the setting. The novel is set in an alternative universe that's a bit like the Abbasid Khalifate, with overtones of "The Thief of Baghdad" and the Arabian Nights. The story is well-paced and the characters quite believable, and it...
Published 14 days ago by Christopher J. Napier

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars nice, diverse flavour to the fantasy genre
Throne of the Crescent Moon dropped into my hands when I was too through with the fantasy world. After a while, reading about callow white youths on a journey, to either rescue a princess or gain renown with frothy euro fantasy gets pretty old. Throne of the Crescent Moon adds a fair bit of spice to the bland fare of high fantasy and it's worth a read...
Published 14 months ago by jazzy pom


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4.0 out of 5 stars Exciting fantasy with pseudo-Islamic overtones, 12 Dec 2014
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Christopher J. Napier (Egham, Surrey, UK) - See all my reviews
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I don't normally go for "sword and sorcery" fantasy novels, but I was attracted to this book by the pseudo-Islamic overtones of the setting. The novel is set in an alternative universe that's a bit like the Abbasid Khalifate, with overtones of "The Thief of Baghdad" and the Arabian Nights. The story is well-paced and the characters quite believable, and it will be interesting to see whether the author stays with the main characters in the promised sequels. The religion is a sort of light-weight Islam, with an emphasis on the Names of God and the repetition of verses from the "Heavenly Chapters" as a Qur'an analogue, but with no references to a Prophet. On the other hand, the book features the "Humble Students" as a sort of cross between Saudi Arabia's Mutaween and the Taliban, demonstrating that fantasy novels reflect the times in which they are written.The writing style is clear and expository, but with no literary pretensions, and hence the style does not get in the way of the narrative. A book to read for passing the time rather than for deep insight into the human condition.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars nice, diverse flavour to the fantasy genre, 12 Oct 2013
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jazzy pom "jazzypom" (united kingdom) - See all my reviews
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Throne of the Crescent Moon dropped into my hands when I was too through with the fantasy world. After a while, reading about callow white youths on a journey, to either rescue a princess or gain renown with frothy euro fantasy gets pretty old. Throne of the Crescent Moon adds a fair bit of spice to the bland fare of high fantasy and it's worth a read.

Essentially, the story is about an old hunter called Doctor Adoulla Makhslood . He's old, and tired and just wants to retire. However, an old love has asked him to investigate the supernatural death of some family members, and because it's the first time she's spoken to him (and Makhslood lives in hope), he goes and takes his assistant in training, Raseed bas Raseed to the site of the slaughter, only to come upon Zamia Badavi- a shapechanger who is charged to avenge her people, and then our story begins. We meet Makhslood's friends Dawood and Litaz, and their magicks. As well as we find out that their part of the world is in the path of an ancient evil. Along with a swashbuckling Prince of Thieves, and actions most foul.

The world building is relatively complete with the novel. From the magics that sweeten the Princes' gardens (so that the found stench of the city doesn't intrude on his world), to the rituals of tea with salted pistachios, and the bumble, snarl and stink of the city, it's pretty much there.

The reason why the book only gets three stars, is the fact that Ahmed's short story background seems to come through. The narrative seems 'sealed' somewhat, and instead of giving characters at turns the space to 'show' off their craft, it's over narrated. In addition, it could have more more action, considering that the characters are all skilled in either sword-craft or magic. The book ends on an odd note, and that's when I belatedly realised that it was the first in a trilogy! D'oh, no-one writes one shots anymore.

Even with all its flaws, the book deserves to be read. The characters are real, tend to be mostly poc,and not described in terms of food (caramel, chocolate, etc), and when they use their powers and actions, the consequences are far reaching. I wish they'd had the cover with the characters on it over here (instead of just the Throne). But yeah, I enjoyed the book thoroughly and am looking to book too.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great characters in a swashbuckling fantasy tale, 19 Mar 2012
By 
M. Hepworth (UK) - See all my reviews
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The Throne of the Crescent Moon is a fun, fast-paced swashbuckling adventure, which presents a fresh and interesting world populated by interesting characters,

Doctor Adoulla Makhslood is an aging ghul hunter (ghuls are zombies or ghouls), who leaves the teeming streets of the grand city of Dhamsawaat to fight murderous supernatural creatures and the men who have created them. His apprentice is a young dervish, Raseed, a religious fanatic with a terrible swift sword arm. Travelling to investigate a ghul attack they find Zamia, a young tribeswoman with supernatural powers who has suffered a great tragedy. It slowly becomes apparent that some powerful sorcerer is at large, and has evil designs on the Doctor's city. Two more characters come into play: Litaz and Dawood, old friends and allies of the Doctor.
Running through this are the exploits of the Falcon Prince, a flamboyant enemy of the current Khalif, who presents himself as a robber-prince helping the poor against their oppressors. As the book kicks into high gear for a swashbuckling conclusion, all of these come together in a deadly threat to the city.

The book is very ambitious, with no less than 5 narrating characters, and can get a bit confusing at times, but overall the author pulls this off well. What he does brilliantly is to evoke some very real and distinctive characters and make them shine - the Doctor is world-weary, but determined to do his duty; Rasheed has his faith tested by meeting Zamia, who herself is struggling with her powers. The portrayal of Litaz and Dawood as a long-standing couple accepting each other while being concerned for the future is particularly well done considering they get the least page-time.

The other starring character is the world itself, as the author evokes a fantastical Arabian-themed land, with the teeming, chaotic city of Dhamsawaat, flavoursome magic, and depraved villains all lighting up the page. A cynical reader could say that it is simply a standard fantasy plot (hero assembles his allies and tries to defeat the bad guy) with some Thousand and One Nights thrown in for flavour, but I can assure you it is much more than the sum of its parts.

The book is the first in a series, but is a stand-alone story with a satisfying end. This is refreshing in an era of SF trilogies where you finish the first book to find nothing is resolved, and you will be waiting for book 3 for any answers.

There are some flaws - the cutting between characters is sometimes disconcerting, and the Falcon Prince is a bit one-note as a character - but they are far outweighed by the sheer sense of fun and exuberance the author brings to the book. Throne of the Crescent Moon will draw you in with an intriguing world and characters you want to spend time with, and deliver a swashbuckling tale along the way.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A magical, exotic tale, 27 May 2014
This review is from: Throne of the Crescent Moon (Crescent Moon Kingdoms) (Paperback)
I read Saladin Ahmed’s The Throne of the Crescent Moon on a bit of whim (and ages ago now, so excuse the shorter review) when my brother and I were looking for something different for me to read to him at night (we are each other’s audiobooks because we’re cool like that). We’d heard good things about it and my brother had—very briefly—started listening to the actual audiobook and liked the setting.

I find it one of the hardest books I have had to review: it is so very different from every other fantasy book I have read that I have nothing to compare it to. Not that comparison is necessary, but I have no basis on which to judge this book apart from how it touched me. The characters, the landscapes, even down to the writing style seemed to carry with them a touch of exoticness so very genuine that it made for a completely different, and wonderful, read.

Ahmed’s characters are a colourful lot, effortlessly deep and real, even those seen only for a couple of pages. There is something in the way that Ahmed writes that brings the characters to life, making them pop off the page in their colourfulness: it’s in the small gestures that tell us more than a page of description could, in the looks exchanged, in the most mundane of interactions that they become so very three dimensional.

I don’t think I found any of the characters dislikeable, and given that some are advanced in age and I sometimes struggle to get attached to older characters (I feel much too young to relate most of the time), there isn’t one member of the cast I wasn’t attached to by the end of the book. Adoulla, Raseed, Zamia, and the other important members of the cast are definitely characters that I would like to see more of.

Ahmed’s writing was enchanting from the start, creating beautiful landscapes with vivid and exotic descriptions. It created a feeling similar to reading stories from The Thousand and One Nights, which was very refreshing in a market where most fantasy uses medieval (or Renaissance) Europe as the base inspiration for its setting. The story too was both exotic and compelling, only revealing itself in all its importance towards the latter end of the book, when the stakes suddenly rocket sky high, and force the cast to risk their lives (I spent the last few pages awfully worried for everyone).

I enjoyed the pace, which was somewhat slower than I would have expected of a story of this length and yet never lulled and never bored. Instead, it seemed to want to give the reader the time to think, to ponder over the events and their consequences alongside of the characters creating a sense of immersion. At times, it almost felt as though I could have been sitting in the room with Adoulla and his friends.

Overall, I very much so enjoyed The Throne of the Crescent Moon and would definitely jumped on a second book if this was to be a series. It told a vivid, enchanting tale with characters and a writing style to match. It was a world that was hard to leave behind when I turned the last page of the book, and definitely one I hope to be able to go back to someday!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Fantasy gem, 31 Mar 2014
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This review is from: Throne of the Crescent Moon (Crescent Moon Kingdoms) (Paperback)
This book shows that in a genre swamped with vampire romances, Game of Thrones rip offs and insipid young adult adventures, you can still find the odd fantasy gem. Throne of the Crescent Moon feels like an inspired mixture of Arabian Nights and the Gentleman Bastard novels of Scott Lynch. It is a page-turner full of sword fighting, magic and ghuls.

Eschewing the more traditional heroes, the main protagonist is Doctor Adoulla Makhslood, the aging and somewhat portly last ghul hunter. Despite his age and overwhelming desire to live out the rest of his days in comfort with a ready supply of cardamom tea, his calling keeps him fighting the different types of ghuls and the men that raise them. Adoulla is a great character; grumpy and bitter at times, but with a noble core.

In any other take on this story, the main character would be the Doctor’s assistant, Raseed bas Raseed, a zealous idealist who is a talented swordsman. It would have been easy to have Adoulla be the Obi Wan like mentor to the boy. That this is not the case certainly improves the story. In all other respects however, Raseed is a fantasy trope, a virginal/celibate but hyper competent hero who has his belief system thrown into doubt by love.

An old love of Adoulla asks him to investigate the death of family members, so he and Raseed leave the city to investigate. During a ghul attack they are aided by Zamia, a shapeshifter determined to avenge her people. Linking with Adoulla’s old friends Dawoud and Litaz, they come across a plot to capture the Throne of the Crescent Moon from the current incumbent Khalif, and unlock its mystical and terrible powers. Thrown into the mix too is The Falcon Prince, a Robin Hood type outlaw who speaks for the downtrodden people and is at war with the Khalif. His own struggle interlinks at times with that of Adoulla, and provides some much needed grey in a story filled with black and white.

If I were to be uncharitable, I’d say that the book doesn’t lack for fantasy tropes. While it’s setting and characters make it stand out from the crowd, there is nothing here that is particularly innovative. There is a bit of a lull in the middle where you’ll be as impatient as Zamia for the plot to get moving again, and some of the problems are solved a little too conveniently.

There are minor quibbles though. The book is infused with a sense of fun that keeps you wanting the turn the page. The characters may be largely fantasy archetypes, but no less engaging for that, and a lot of their friendly banter is pitched perfectly. It is a light and quick read with some good swashbuckling action sequences. I’m already planning to buy more copies to give as presents to friends who I think will appreciate this, and I’ll be looking out for the next two in the series.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Suprisingly good, 30 Mar 2014
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ARC (The Shires, UK) - See all my reviews
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Fast paced and engaging. I was hooked pretty quickly, despite the slightly clichéd plot and the rushed ending. The main character was enjoyably grouchy, and it was great to have a fresh environment for the story to play out in.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Arabian-themed fantasy read, 26 Aug 2013
Dr Abdoulla Makhslood is the last ghul hunter in the city of Dhamsawaat. Aided by the devout Raseed, an 18-year-old Dervish warrior whose faith is tested by the realities of city life, Abdoulla's strength is fading and he's worried about what will happen if he dies. When his former lover, Miri Almoussa seeks his help after her niece and nephew are killed by ghuls, his investigation leads him to the only survivor of a murdered desert tribe - 15 year old Zamia, a shapeshifter able to turn into a lion.

Their investigation reveals a sinister plot to destabilise Dhamsawaat, a city already caught in a battle between the cruel Khalif and self-style Falcon Prince for the soul of its people. Abdoulla and his friends will have to choose sides if they're to avoid seeing their world turned into a blood-soaked ruin ...

Saladin Ahmed's debut novel, the first in a trilogy, is an okay fantasy read but despite its refreshing use of Arabian themes and settings in its world building, its female characters are a depressing mix of wives, whores and virgins, the villains are underdeveloped ciphers and the plot turns on contrivance to propel it. Although I liked the cynical and world-weary Abdoulla enough to check out the remaining books, I won't be hurrying to do so.

Abdoulla is a great character - cynical and world weary, he's torn between his desire for a peaceful retirement and the knowledge that doing so will leave the world defenceless against evil. I enjoyed his teasing of the devout but naïve Raseed and his affection for the boy but wished that Raseed had been developed a little more beyond the stock religious ingénue who finds his worldview challenged.

By contrast the female characters are underdeveloped. Zamia is a rude, virginal girl seeking revenge for her tribe, Miri is a whore who wants Abdoulla to marry her and alchemist Litaz a wife desperate to return to her homeland. The villains fare even worse - little more than ciphers whose motivation is never explained and the plot is heavily reliant on contrivance to keep moving. This is a shame because I really enjoyed the world building here as Ahmed uses Arabian themes and styles to draw his world to refreshing effect.

All in all, I will keep reading this trilogy but the lack of good female characters means I won't be in a hurry to do so.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Exactly what i expected!, 1 May 2013
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I chose this book because it reminded me of other similar books i have read in the past and i wasn't disappointed.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Shiny Gift-Wrap, 24 Mar 2013
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In my younger days I read a fair bit of fantasy, most of it set in worlds drawn from the myths and history of northern Europe. In seeking to dip back into the genre, it was refreshing to have an novel recommended to me that took inspiration from a different source. Ahmed's debut novel fuses pseudo-Muslim beliefs with other myths sourced from the Arabic world, and the dry lands that form the Kingdoms of the Crescent Moon are all the more pleasing for it. Unfortunately that's where the originality ends, and the well thought out backdrop does nothing to combat the over-familiarity of the characters. They're a plot-driven bunch with only enough complexity as is needed to keep the story going, and for all the quirks of the fresh mythos on show their natures echoed Dungeons & Dragons flavoured heroes and heroines I've long been familiar with. It's the same old stuff, in different packaging. That's not to say the book isn't enjoyable - it's a well-paced and smartly written little swashbuckler - but in failing to match content to concept it doesn't live up to the sheer potential of the Big Idea behind it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars MMMMM, 6 Feb 2013
A fantasy novel where the main character is a fat, middle aged, tired old man? Set in a scenario that culturally draws on the Middle East rather than the usual Middle Ages, this book was a joy to read.
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Throne of the Crescent Moon (Crescent Moon Kingdoms)
Throne of the Crescent Moon (Crescent Moon Kingdoms) by Saladin Ahmed (Paperback - 12 Sep 2013)
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