on 19 March 2012
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.
on 27 May 2014
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!
on 24 March 2013
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.
on 2 August 2015
Surprisingly enjoyable book. I like the way it was written. I say surprising because some of the other stories by this author was less interesting. The story itself was interersting and I look forward to a sequel.
on 2 January 2015
This was OK, but I struggled to connect with the main characters and felt the language didn't always flow - not sure if that was the original text or the translations.
Wouldn't rush to pick up another book by this author.
Dr. Adoulla Makhslood is a ghul-hunter, a slayer of monsters who battles against the evil wizards who summon them. He is also in his sixties and feeling his age. Raseed bas Raseed is his protege, a holy Dervish warrior with legendary sword skills but awkward social graces. A new commission leads them to a chance meeting with Zamia, a desert tribeswoman with the ability to transform into a lion. As Raseed struggles with his vow of chastity, the band of adventurers learn of a great threat to the city of Dhamsawaat and have to join forces with a dubious thief prince to defeat it.
Throne of the Crescent Moon is the debut novel by Saladin Ahmed and the first novel in the Crescent Moon Kingdoms series. It's a rollicking, swashbuckling, grin-inducing romp of a book which takes inspiration from The Arabian Nights and never lets up in its ability to entertain.
The book draws on Arabian mythology and history, so the book immediately has a different feeling to most faux-European fantasy novels. Indeed, whilst reading the novel I was reminded of the immensely fun Al-Qadim roleplaying world (for 2nd Edition Dungeons and Dragons) from the mid-1990s, which featured bands of heroic adventurers and noble thieves tackling trickster djinn and corrupt viziers with nary an orc or elf in sight.
Throne of the Crescent Moon is definitely a romp with more than a passing nod to the likes of Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser, but it's also a wonderfully well-characterised novel. The characters are archetypes but also have tremendous depth to them. Making the central hero a fat man in his sixties who gets winded way too easily and is physically incapable of engaging in combat is a brave move, making Adoulla the brains of the operation but also an irascible and stubborn fool on occasion. Raseed is lightning-fast with his sword and almost unbeatable in battle, but is riven by self-doubts and struggles with his faith. His humourless martinet routine is the butt of many jokes, but his religious conflict is an important part of his character which gives him depth when he finally realises the world is a messier place than his strict morals allow. However, arguably the most interesting characters are Dawoud and Litaz, former adventuring buddies of Team Adoulla who have now retired from monster-fighting to run their own business. They are reluctantly drawn back into Adoulla's adventures, allowing for a detailed examination of the lives of a middle-aged couple against a fantasy backdrop.
Throne of the Crescent Moon does this - mixing the conventional and unconventional, magical and mundane - throughout its length and it's this blending of knockabout fun with fleshed-out, realistic characters which gives the book much greater depth and longevity than just being an action novel (although Ahmed's action sequences are first-rate). Ahmed also achieves a tremendous depth of worldbuilding, making Dhamsawaat (which is basically Baghdad by way of Lankhamar) a fully-realised location so vivid you can smell the spices and hear the merchants hawking their wears.
If there are criticisms, it is the book's length: at 260 pages (in tradeback) the book rushes some aspects, especially towards the ending, and the Falcon Prince feels a bit too remote and off-stage a character for the sudden prominence he gains in the grand finale. However, plot synopses for the sequel suggests he plays a larger role in that volume, which will be welcome.
Throne of the Crescent Moon (****½) is a breath of fresh air, a fiendishly addictive novel which is over way too soon and will leave readers begging for more. The novel is available now in the UK and USA. The sequel, The Thousand and One, is due for release later this year or in 2017.
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.
on 30 April 2012
I read a lot of reviews before reading this novel that praised Ahmed's good writing etc, so I had high hopes for this book. However I was ultimately disappointed. Throne of the Crescent Moon shows promise, and it's refreshing to read a fantasy novel that's NOT set in Generic White Medieval Fantasy Europe, but ultimately it was the writing that ruined it for me.
The prose in Throne is very over-told. I found it laborious to read and really difficult to get into. Perhaps this was a deliberate stylistic choice - and certainly some people seem to just love it - but I prefer prose that melts away so that the reading experience becomes completely immersive. Throne does the opposite. The prose actually gets in the way of enjoying the story, and I really struggled to finish it.
Where Throne was a real disappointment was when it came to the plot. The first half is okay, if a bit slow to get started. Then about halfway through there's a point where a minor, off-screen character just HAPPENS to have the EXACT ITEM our intrepid heroes need to save the day. It was so utterly contrived I just couldn't take it seriously. From that point on the plot descends into a series of one convenient coincidence after another to the point where it became farcical. By the end I was rolling my eyes so much at the contrived plot twists - and the teenage drama llamas - that I gave myself a headache.
Leaving aside the book's plot-and-prose flaws, it's a disappointing read as a woman. There's only three female characters, and they never talk to each other (unless it's to discuss a man). The men drive the plot and make all the decisions, and the women just sort of tag along and make all the right noises. I felt that the female characters were never fleshed out and their relationships to each other were never explored.
Ultimately, I was disappointed with the book and wouldn't recommend it.
on 3 December 2015
We have the Thousand and One Nights in our world, and in another world they have a similar set of tales and Throne of The Crescent Moon is one of those stories. From the first few pages you know that you have been dipped into a different fantastical environment. In many ways the story is very straightforward, but Saladin Ahmed has created a cast of characters who live lives with believable relationships with friends and lovers. Indeed if there is a theme throughout the book, for me it was one of the importance on having those you can depend upon, even if there are limits. The book moves at a steady pace and kept me enthralled. Most enjoyable. I have one question, where is the sequel?
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.