Nicholas 's Reviews > Throne of the Crescent Moon

Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed
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's review
May 18, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: fantasy, audio-books
Read from May 20 to June 01, 2012

This is really an excellent book. I have been intrigued by Arab fiction since I discovered Naghib Mahfouz' Children of the Alley and I found the setting and the phrasing of the dialog to be enthralling. Though far from the main thrust of the work, I kept finding myself enthralled by the God-tinged fatalism of the way the characters talk. "If God wills it" and its variants punctuate the speech of the characters and that highlights a humility and an awareness of their fate being in the hands of an ineffable force. One last comment on the humility that accompanies this kind of fatalism: none of the characters surrendered their will to this inexorable fate, they still strove and struggled and fought for life. The pervasive American Evangelical Optimism that surrounds me denies this and that denial rings false. We seem to believe that *WE* control everything and thus everyone's fate is deserved. It is an atmosphere that is a rejection of both compassion and humility. I'm afraid I am unable to be religious at this point of my life, but I'd prefer a capricious/ineffable deity to one who insists that the status quo was what the omnipotent intended from the moment of creation.

(Personal aside over, now to the book!)

The narrative here is, by some measures, standard and straight-forward: a diverse set of unlikely friends band together to fight against a dauntingly powerful enemy who threatens their city and their way of life.

Like Scheherazade, Ahmed shows us here that it is the telling, more than the tale that keeps us wanting more. The Doctor is wonderfully introspective and his worries and thoughts about himself and his apprentice provide a very rich look into the wise-but-jaded old master and the full-of-potential young idealist.

At first blush, All of his characters can be fit comfortably into existing tropes, but the way Ahmed puts them together makes these trope come alive, rather than succumb to cliche. Each character is conflicted in interesting ways, and they each deal with their internal conflict well. Nothing comes down to a simple black/white distinction and Mr. Ahmed gives us all a gift by treating these internal conflicts about how to best live our lives and make choices with respect. It is in how his characters deal with their conflicts and their choices that they are revealed to us and their beauty shown. All too many genre authors make the familiar mistake of reducing conflicts down to their resolution and leaving us with the false impression that the answers are more important than the questions. Ahmed avoids this and shows us richer and more human characters that reveal more about life and humanity than many others who fit into the same tropes.

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