Book Review: Throne of the Crescent Moon

Throne of the Crescent Moon is the debut novel of Saladin Ahmed, won the Locus Award for Best First Novel in 2013[1], and was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 2013[2]. When I decided to read this book there were three things in particular that caught my eye—a comparison to The Arabian Nights in the reviews, the skeleton-like figures on the cover, and the author's name which stands out against all the names of the other fantasy authors, most of whom are white males. I was curious as to the story in general, but also how the the author's culture would influence the story.

The novel follows three main characters—Doctor Adoulla Makhslood, Raseed bas Raseed, and Zamia Banu Laith Badawi—who are each on an individual quest which links them together. Adoulla is an old ghul hunter, specifically the last ghul hunter. He worries that he is too old to continue fighting and there is no one left to take his place. Raseed is a young dervish who wishes to honor God by training under Adoulla to fight ghul's (other wise known as agents of the Traitorous Angel). Zamia is a young girl and the only survivor of the Banu Laith Badawi band, which is brutally murdered by a pack of rouge ghuls. Zamia joins Adoulla and Raseed's quest to rid the city of the rouge ghuls with the intent of avenging her band.

The world created in this book is quite interesting and there is a bit of mystery surrounding the roles of the Kahlif and a Zorro-like rebel in the creation of the mysterious packs of ghuls terrorizing the city. World building is definitely a strong point for the novel—if you want to take a mental trip somewhere else, this book will definitely transport you from your reading spot into the world Mr. Ahmed has created. The inclusion of words and phrases such as Kahlif and dervish from Middle Eastern culture not only adds to the feeling of being transported into another realm, but added to my vocabulary knowledge. It brings about a refreshing shift from Arthurian and Tolkienesque fantasy. Also, the action is set just so, giving the book a nice pace that keeps you from dosing off but doesn't come off as excessive. The character I connected to most was not a main character which made the novel drag a little for me in certain places. Adoulla, Raseed, and Zamia are all likable characters with extremely different personalities and backgrounds, however I never felt deeply invested in whether or not they succeeded.

Like most science fiction and fantasy novels, Throne of the Crescent Moon is part of a series. According to the author's website, the second book should be available some time in 2016. The first book was definitely enjoyable and strong enough that I want to read the sequel, but not so earth-shattering that I've penciled in the release date and pre-ordered a copy. If you like fantasy with just the slightest hint of horror or are looking for a slightly different world to dive into, I definitely suggest this book. If you're squeamish over violence, this may not be your cup of tea. Overall, it was a good, fun read, and I can't wait to see what Mr. Ahmed comes up with next.


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