Edition 11: Book Review: Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed
Reviewed by Damien Smith
I’m going to be old and grey by the time I make a dent in my ever-growing “To Read” pile, but occasionally I seek some distraction from my line up because I feel like reading something specific. At the start of the year I had a sudden yearning for some decent sword and sorcery, which had been missing from my line up since I finished rereading The Complete Conan (highly recommended, by the way, but not what this review is about). A friend mentioned a book Throne of the Crescent Something by someone I’d never heard of as a decent yarn, so I thanked them and then promptly forgot the name of both author and book.
Some months later I had my eye on the award season results and this naggingly familiar book keeps cropping up. Throne of the Crescent Moon was a nominee for the 2013 Hugo Award for best novel, the 2012 Nebula Award for Best Novel and winner of the Locus Award for Best First Novel. Saladin Ahmed’s debut novel. At the first opportunity I sourced a copy to perch precariously on the apex of my “To Read” pile.
Our main protagonist is Doctor Adoulla Makhslood, an often unholy holy man and ghul hunter several decades past his prime, based in the city of Dhamsawaat in the Crescent Moon kingdom. The Doctor and his assistant, a holy dervish and puritan, Raseed bas Raseed, find themselves directly in the path of a massive plot by a devastatingly powerful sorcerer and his monstrous minions, which looks set to bathe the whole kingdom in rivers of blood. Throw in Zamia, a wild young Badawi tribeswoman with the divine gift to take a lion shape, who is on the sorcerer’s trail after her tribe is slaughtered, and a mysterious revolutionary leader known as the Falcon Prince who is attempting to bring down the Kalif himself, and you have all the ingredients for an excellent story.
However, ingredients aren’t enough by themselves. Where this novel really excels is in the execution. Politics, myth and beautifully flawed characters collide in an ever-revealing and twisting plot. Seemingly unconnected story threads weave through each other to diverge and re-join in the grand finale. The Arabian Nights feel is a refreshing break from many of the more Euro-centric fantasy novels saturating the market and the characters are equally easy to cheer for and get frustrated at.
My biggest gripe over this book is now I have to wait however long for the next in the series. That may sound like a cop-out, but I really couldn’t fault the story pacing and elements. Saladin Ahmed has done some serious polishing here.
I don’t want to spoil this read by revealing too much detail, but the setting, monsters, politics and physically debilitating magic had me hooked. If my recommendation isn’t enough, go back to the top and have another look at the award nominations. If you like sword and sorcery, get this post haste. If you don’t, get it anyway and branch out; this book rocks.
Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed
Sword and Sorcery
Publisher: Penguin, 2012
Being a writer requires dedication, commitment, devotion, diligence, a skin like an armadillo and a whole lot of blood, sweat and tears. By this definition, Damien is most definitely not a writer, although he does occasionally put pen to paper. More accurately, Damien is a lover of the written word in nearly all its forms (you can keep vampire romances) and always feels a little down if he can see over his To Read pile.