Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed
Reading level: Adult
Mass market paperback: 367 pages
Release date: February 7, 2012
Series: The Crescent Moon Kingdoms #1
Reviewed by: Stéphanie
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, home to djenn and ghuls, holy warriors and heretics, are 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. But these killings are only the earliest signs of a plot for the Throne of the Crescent Moon that threatens to turn the great city of Dhamsawwaat, and the world itself, into a blood-soaked ruin.
I was first attracted to THRONE OF THE CRESCENT MOON because of its rare Arabian Nights-like setting. Rarely do I read book with a setting like this one so I thought I would give it a chance. The book I reviewed last week made me visit the middle of the Amazon rainforest and today’s book made me discover the mysteries of a fictional middle east world. And like last week, I wasn’t disappointed with the setting of the book. The rich and detailed descriptions of the Crescent Moon Kingdoms made me admire the author’s imagination. Not only did he reinvent the middle east as we know it, but he also added fantasy elements to make it more mysterious and colorful.
At first, I had issues with the main character because Adoulla is a 60 year old ghul hunter past his prime that never stops complaining. In almost every chapter, we hear him complain about his age and his fat old body, and to tell you the truth, it was really hard to connect with him despite how hard I tried to see it from his point of view. And let’s be serious, a lamenting old man isn’t very attractive. So when I the story started to follow two other important characters, I was very relieved. Adoulla’s assistant, Raseed, is a monk-like warrior who is reserved and tries to follow the rules as much as possible (or as much as Adoulla will let him). During their first ghul hunt of the book, they meet Zamia, a young tribeswoman who is trying to avenge the murder of the members of her band. Her ability to transform into a lion and her direct link to some of the fallen makes her an unlikely ally, and so Adoulla feels the need to take her under his wing. Only then do I truly start to like Adoulla. The sweet and unlikely relationship that builds between 17 year old Raseed and 15 year old Zamia was a nice surprise since I thought the book was going to follow and 60 year old fart (his word, not mine).
The plot is very slow. I would expect any fantasy book to be very descriptive and THRONE OF THE CRESCENT MOON doesn’t fail in that aspect. However, since it’s a rather short fantasy novel, I felt cheated because a lot of it was description, and we didn’t get much action in the middle of the story. I’m very glad that the story picked up, but I can see how some readers would simply give up completely because of the lull in the middle.
The book may be about fighting evil forces that have infiltrated the capital city called Dhamsawaat, but it’s also a book about human nature. The flawed protagonists all follow a Christian-like religion and their constant dedication to fighting this evil is admirable. They might all have different reasons for fighting, but in the end, it’s their synonymous goal that makes them band together. Their views of God and their interpretation of scripture are very different, probably because they come from very different backgrounds. That’s what makes these character so complex and enjoyable. Personally, I really like how the author incorporated magic and alkhemy within this Christian-like religion of his. The presence of damnable beings like ghuls and the mysterious shadow creature hunting in the city and its surroundings are the perfect personifications of evil, and the right antagonists for this novel. Other factors that makes us investigate the human nature include a vigilante called the Falcon Prince that reminds me a lot of Robin Hood and the corrupt monarchy that is on the brink of forcing a revolution.
I wouldn’t say that this book was an exciting read (especially because of its slow start) but I was surprisingly entertained. The well developed characters and the rich, detailed world building was a definite plus. A great beginning to a majestic trilogy, I think this might be the start of an epic adventure.