Sunday, February 17, 2013

Book Review: Throne of the Crescent Moon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'll start out by saying that I love my twitter feed. I've managed to compile the kind of writers and readers who know how to spread the word out about quality books. This one has been sitting on my "to read" list for a while, and I'm happy I finally got to it.

Saladin Ahmed's Throne of the Crescent Moon is about old heroes who have paid their dues, and new heroes who still have much to learn. While the threat runs along the typical save-the-world-from-evil-magic plot, the book still feels refreshing. Perhaps it is the middle-eastern setting with ghuls and heart-eating jackal men. Or it could be tired and old Adoulla and his rash assistant Raseed.

Doctor Adoulla Makhslood is one of the last ghul hunters. He is blessed by God to fight what is essentially hell spawn. (To think of it in more standard terms, imagine him as a cleric out to fight the zombie hordes risen by necromancers.) He's been doing his job for forty years and wants to lay down his satchel and eternally white kaftan. It's just picking when to retire that's the problem. There is always some threat to drag him in.

Raseed bas Raseed (Raseed only Raseed) is a young dervish. Seventeen to be exact. He is devoutly religious and exceptionally rigid. He's served Adoulla for two years because he was told he would learn important lessons from him. At the beginning of the book, he's still skeptical, not quite understanding how Adoulla could be this great servant of God with his rude noises (of words and bodily) and his love of opulent food.

These two polarizing characters are the foundation that the story is built on. Through them we are introduced to the fierce lion-girl Zamia, Litaz the Alkhemist, and her magus husband Dawoud. They are all fleshed out characters in their own rights with their own thoughts and feelings. Every time Ahmed swaps point of views, I could tell who was speaking if I covered up their names. This is part of the book's charm.

Yes, I said charm. This book is practically brimming with it. It has magic, action, emotion, and a bitter-sweet ending that shows what really happens to heroes at the end of the day without going into gritty realism. There is a balance that makes Throne of the Crescent Moon both fanciful and realistic. I'm glad this book is loved as much as it is because it deserves it. There is a sweetness and a sadness that I rarely find in the sword and sorcery genre. And it isn't predicable.

I might read it again someday, but for now I will wait patiently for the sequel sipping my cardamom tea.