the Little Red Reviewer

Throne of the Crescent Moon, by Saladin Ahmed

Posted on: February 25, 2012

Throne of the Crescent Moon, by Saladin Ahmed

published in Feburary 2011

where I got it: the Library*










I’ve been trying to write this review for two days now, and it just hasn’t been happening.

The only important part of this review is: Read this book now. really.  I adored it. Ask my husband, I’ve been talking of nothing else for the last few days.

There is nothing I can say that will do this book justice.

But you know I’ll try.

If Ellen Kushner showed me what effortless writing looked like, then Saladin Ahmed has shown me what truly fully developed characters read like.  These characters are so real and so true  that I didn’t feel like I was reading them so much as spending a few precious days with them.   I feel like I could tell you what Adoulla’s bookshelves look like (cluttered but organized?), like I could describe the look on Raseed’s face when he instantly regrets something he’s said, the sound of Zamia sleeping while in her lion shape. I want to have tea at Yehyeh’s,  I want to follow Adoulla through the city as his conflicted feelings force his actions.

Beyond the exquisite characterization, Throne of the Crescent Moon is so deliciously atypical of so much of the fantasy that’s currently available.  Yes, it’s a fantasy adventure in a secondary world, and yes there is some magic.  But show me another recently written fantasy novel where the hero is a middle aged fat man  whose magic stems from phrases and quotations out of a religious prayerbook.   Show me a recently written fantasy adventure where the endgame is all about ending up with the person you love, the person who waited for you.

Now that I’ve inadvertently made it sound like a supernatural neo-spiritual anime (which it most certainly isn’t), let’s get to the meat of the thing.

Doctor Adoulla Mahkslood is a Ghul Hunter. His unstainable kaftan identifies him as one of the last of his kind. Old and tired, Adoulla agrees to one last ghul hunt. With his young apprentice Raseed, they venture into the desert. To find ghuls, and the Lion girl Zamia, last of her tribe. From there, the story takes off to involve Adoulla’s trusted magician neighbors, an infamous thief known as the Falcon Prince, and the safety of their city. An ancient evil has been awakened, one so secret that even its name has been banished from the encoded records.

At less than three hundred pages Ahmed hasn’t got a lot of time to get the story rolling. With not a wasted word the world of the Crescent Moon Kingdom takes shape like a curtain lifting.  The ghul threat shows up very soon, as do possibly enemies and allies. In slower moments Adoulla and his friends chuckle as the teenaged Raseed and Zamia dance around each other, attracted but without the words to tell each other. It’s cute. I hope they get married one day. It might be an fantasy adventure, but as in life, the true beauty of the tale is in the smaller moments.

In the last nine months especially, I’ve noticed a copious amount of new books that proclaim to be “Book one of the dramatic-word-here series!”.  I grew up on stand alones and completed trilogies, and I’m not sure how much all these new series excite me.  When I found out Throne of the Crescent Moon was the first in a series, I jumped for joy.

*  why did I library such a book, and not buy it outright, you ask?   Long story short, I know my local library will have this on the “New” shelves for a good 3-4 months, exposing it to countless readers who might not otherwise know of it’s existence.  Also,  all my disposable income is currently going towards items that have the words “Cat Valente” on them someplace.

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24 Responses to "Throne of the Crescent Moon, by Saladin Ahmed"

I had trouble writing my review for this as well. I stopped and restarted, wrote practically two separate reviews then cut/pasted them together. Throne of the Crescent Moon wasn’t my typical type of book, I tend more to scifi/horror than fantasy, but I adored this book. One of the main reasons I chose it was that it was narrated by my favorite narrator. I’m definitely glad I did.

As soon as I finish D A Durham’s The Sacred Band–and write the piece about it, I expect I’ll get to the library on this one, too. Looks brilliant, and anything that can counteract the vast Islamophobia that Tolkein bequeathed to the genre is worthwhile on that score alone.

Incidentally, the Durham book is fantastic.

I loved how this tale had elements from cultures that I am unfamiliar with, giving it that extra dimension.

I love to read a review that is so enthusiastic about a title – thanks for recommending this one :)

I am so glad to hear you enjoyed this! I have it on my wish list, so I am looking forward to it. :)

I’ve heard nothing but good things about this book. Guess it’s time to toss it on the pile. :)

This sounds incredible! Great characterisation is where a great deal of fantasy gives up and goes for stereotype and flashy plots instead, so that sounds a huge pull. Thanks for the great review… I’m ordering this. :D

you are gonna love it. It’s so funny, because the book, starting with the cover art, screams “stereotypes”: the aged Indiana-Jones type hunter, the young apprentice, the wild woman, the female healer, the magician. . . . and seriously, like on page one, Ahmed starts with the stereotype smashing. and he doesn’t stop. and not to mention a pretty flashy and emotional plot too!! Really, it’s just got everything, crammed into less than 300 pages.

Damn, I love that sort of thing… stereotype-smashing. Erikson did that a fair bit in his earlier novels – and a big point in Ahmed’s favour over those should be the ’300 pages’. Seriously, I love Erikson, but if anybody ever makes a boxed set of the MBOTF, it’ll be a weapon of war. Sounds wonderful.

This one sounds great. I’m going to add it to my amazon wish list. Thanks for the review.

I really want to read this, but seeing as how no bookstore that I can find in this city seems to want to stock it I may have to order it from overseas, admittedly it’ll probably be cheaper that way.

It’s a Daw Books release, so I’m surprised i haven’t been seeing it at all the big mainstream bookstores. My local indie bookstore had a few copies, but those are the only copies I’ve seen “in the wild”. Why would a bookstore not want to carry this?

It may be the whole hardcover release thing. I find that unless it’s a local author or a big one stores down here don’t get hardcovers initially. They will carry tpb’s and mmpb’s, but hardcovers forget about it. Myke Cole’s Control Point, no problem, that popped up in the indie stores I go to, but this one there’s been neither hide nor hair of, the only difference aside from publisher is one was an mmpb and the other is a hardcover.

could definitely be the hardcover thing. In the US at least, MMPB still retail for less than $10, and TPB for around $15 . . . but those fragile hardbacks, you’re looking at at least $25. I can see retailers bringing in more of the lower price point items, especially from new/unknown authors. :( but hey, that’s what the library is for, right? I’d love to sit down with a publisher and learn why they sometimes release things in hardback, and sometimes in paperback.

Sounds fantastic and completely up my alley! :)
Thanks for the review, won’t be borrowing it from your local library but will definitely be searching for a copy of my own.

I am adding this one to my TBR pile. I am looking forward devouring this one.

I’ve not heard (or seen) anything about this book before your review (living under a rock can be a bit reclusive like that). Sounds really good – we don’t always get the same diversity of books over in the UK as you seem to (or we have to wait a while) but I can look online.
I love your line:
“show me another recently written fantasy novel where the hero is a middle aged fat man whose magic stems from phrases and quotations out of a religious prayerbook.”
Lynn :D

Darn it, Red! Your reviews are gonna force me to add to my TBR list.
Great stuff!

mission completed. ;) and I’ve gotten my revenge, since I’ve ended up reading plenty of stuff that I first read about on YOUR blog!

Oh, NOW it’s ON! I’m gonna read and review even more tempting, tasty & addictive books!

You had me at exquisite characterization! I’ve been wanting to read this one anyway – but now I think I’ll HAVE to.

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