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The Crescent Moon Kingdoms #1

Throne of the Crescent Moon

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Goodreads Choice Award
Nominee for Best Fantasy (2012)
The Crescent Moon Kingdoms, home to djenn and ghuls, holy warriors and heretics, are at the boiling point of a power struggle between the iron-fisted Khalif and the mysterious master thief known as the Falcon Prince. In the midst of this brewing rebellion a series of brutal supernatural murders strikes at the heart of the Kingdoms. It is up to a handful of heroes to learn the truth behind these killings:

Doctor Adoulla Makhslood, “the last real ghul hunter in the great city of Dhamsawaat,” just wants a quiet cup of tea. Three score and more years old, he has grown weary of hunting monsters and saving lives, and is more than ready to retire from his dangerous and demanding vocation. But when an old flame’s family is murdered, Adoulla is drawn back to the hunter’s path.

Raseed bas Raseed, Adoulla’s young assistant, is a hidebound holy warrior whose prowess is matched only by his piety. But even as Raseed’s sword is tested by ghuls and manjackals, his soul is tested when he and Adoulla cross paths with the tribeswoman Zamia.

Zamia Badawi, Protector of the Band, has been gifted with the near-mythical power of the lion-shape, but shunned by her people for daring to take up a man’s title. She lives only to avenge her father’s death. Until she learns that Adoulla and his allies also hunt her father’s killer. Until she meets Raseed.

When they learn that the murders and the Falcon Prince’s brewing revolution are connected, the companions must race against time—and struggle against their own misgivings—to save the life of a vicious despot. In so doing they discover a plot for the Throne of the Crescent Moon that threatens to turn Dhamsawaat, and the world itself, into a blood-soaked ruin.

274 pages, Hardcover

First published February 7, 2012

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About the author

Saladin Ahmed

248 books1,709 followers
Saladin Ahmed was born in Detroit and raised in a working-class, Arab American enclave in Dearborn, MI.

His short stories have been nominated for the Nebula and Campbell awards, and have appeared in Year's Best Fantasy and numerous other magazines, anthologies, and podcasts, as well as being translated into five foreign languages. He is represented by Jennifer Jackson of the Donald Maass Literary Agency. THRONE OF THE CRESCENT MOON is his first novel.

Saladin lives near Detroit with his wife and twin children.

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5 stars
2,132 (19%)
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3 stars
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286 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,689 reviews
Profile Image for Saladin Ahmed.
Author 248 books1,709 followers
February 10, 2012
Well, jeez, I wrote the thing. Didjya expect me to give it two stars?

Profile Image for Patrick.
Author 60 books230k followers
March 9, 2012

I love picking up a fantasy novel and reading something I haven't been exposed to before.

With this book, that pleasure came from the fact that the world had some distinctly Arabian worldbuilding and cosmology. It's more than merely a different flavor to the same old story. It's not like the author just mad-libed out the generic European wizards and goblins and replaced them with Fakirs and Djinn. It's a different sort of world, complete with unfamiliar cultural values and superstitions.

In terms of the overall story and character (Which is the meat of the matter) this one hovers somewhere between a four and a five. But the fact that it's the author's Debut novel, combined with the fresh Worldbuilding, nudge it up into the five star range with me. I'll be interested to see what Saladin comes up with next....

Profile Image for Rick Riordan.
Author 343 books397k followers
November 8, 2013
Throne of the Crescent Moon is an adult fantasy set in an alternate Middle East during the golden age of the Caliphate. It richly evokes the world of Ali Baba, Sinbad, and Scheherazade. I love the way Saladin Ahmed creates his story, lovingly portraying his characters and his settings, bringing them all to vivid life. This is another very fast read, because the story moves along at a good clip. The main characters are a ghul hunter (one who searches out and destroys magically summoned demons) a holy warrior dervish who has almost supernatural skill with his sword, and a young nomad girl who has the coolest shape-shifting power you've ever seen. Even this powerful group will have trouble against the evil force that is rising to take the Khalif's throne, however. Since this is an adult fantasy, there is some adult content and some extremely creepy and dark villainy, but nothing that would bother most readers of YA fantasies. If you're ready for a fresh and different sort of fantasy, check it out!
Profile Image for Riku Sayuj.
653 reviews6,920 followers
December 12, 2013

After promising Saladin that I’ll be reviewing the book within a week of its coming out, I stand abashed that it took me this long to get to it. Probably the reason was that in spite of all the acclaim I had heard heaped on it, I knew in my heart that ‘Throne of the Crescent Moon’ is still an out and out ‘Sword And Sorcery’ fantasy genre novel and I had made a conscious decision to stay away from genre novels. But now that I have just finished reading it, I have to admit that I am reminded of why I love the fantasy genre above all others. It is because authors like Saladin can bring alive characters and situations and bathe them in all the fantastic magic imaginable and still make them all appear so real and so part of our world. The world-weariness of the fat old codger with the big belly, Doctor Adoulla Makhslood and the internal conflicts of the scrawny zealot, Raseed and the other quirks of every character speaks directly to us and the characters come alive in vivid detail, especially since the author takes care to not spare us the coarser details as well.

There is a level of perfection in Ahmed’s style and narration that you can feel in every page. A tight, well polished reserve in the choice of words and in the slow construction of the plot. The plot is in reality not of central importance in the book. Ahmed spends more than three-quarters of the book developing his characters, making us inhabiting the heads of various characters as they travel about the city of Dhamsawaat, using these quiet spaces to put in vast details about the inner life of these characters and the outer complexity of the fictional city and its teeming complex life.

Unfortunately, this strength of the book is also its weakness. The final climax can only be called anti-climactic in its lack of devoted pages as well as the lack of action, not to mention the lack of any real feeling of conclusion. There is no explanation provided for the existence of the evil they are battling or for the reason of its existence. I do not want to go into plot details here, but the fact that this is the first in the series should not be an excuse for so little to happen in the book. The characters are developed and primed for a series and the world-building is detailed and complete but the sense of anticipation or of denouement that would draw one back to a series or make one wait eagerly for the next edition is sadly lacking.

But then, as Ahmed makes clear in the last musings of Adoulla, this book was perhaps not intended to be an epic with world-changing climaxes and thundering, sky-splitting battles. Maybe the world-weariness and resignation of Adoulla is also the premise of the book - To remind us that no matter what you achieve, life still goes on with all the challenges still there, undiminished and after the night celebrating your greatest achievement, the next day again dawns and you have to trudge on.

If you are a fantasy fan who has been mourning the superficiality that permeates the genre and is on the lookout for a reflective and quiet but rich and satisfying read, this might be worth picking up. Don’t let the religious overtones and the constant allusions to God and the ‘Avenging Angel’ put you off too much, those are just a part of the magic world the characters inhabit and the book is not trying to convey any religious messages. The invocations from the Holy Book etc., serve as spells in Ahmed’s world and all are weapons of God in a drawn out struggle against the forces of evil which might reach an epic conclusion in some future book in the series. In fact, these religious allusions help in adding texture and credibility to the deeply arabic experience that Ahmed is trying to create. This adds to the rich Arabian atmosphere and the originality with which a glorious Muslim kingdom is painted along with the language, the addresses and the mannerisms will all provide for an authentic 12th Century Arabian Nights like experience.

For a debut author, Saladin Ahmed shows exceptional mastery of his craft and his book is unlikely to disappoint any serious reader who is looking for a bit more than a few swords slashing and spells misfiring. If nothing else, this book was a tuition class in plot and character development by Ahmed, maybe as a practical example to aid the people he helps through his Novel Critiques ad commentaries. This series and the world that Ahmed has created definitely has the potential to develop into something amazing. The groundwork has been lain in this first book and here is hoping that Saladin Ahmed manages to build a grand castle on it soon.
Profile Image for Shannon.
883 reviews216 followers
June 27, 2014
This debut novel inspired by “One Thousand and One Nights” is a fantasy setting which is refreshingly in a non Anglo-French environment. The tale focuses on several different viewpoints but most notably on an old ghul hunter (one of the last of his kind in the area) named Adoulla who is unusually loving and faithful towards his capitol city but sometimes poor at expressing his feelings towards the people he cares about. He has a few close people to him who all end up appearing in his life in different roles during the unfolding of this tale.

As Adoulla's ghul hunting continues he eventually discovers something larger and more sinister (not much of a surprise in a fantasy tale, right?) and along the way picks up some more allies. It's a good tale but the best part is the Arabian flavor simply because I hardly see it well done. This is an exception. Magic is on the uncommon to rare side and is usually temporarily or permanently taxing. The division between the nobility/royalty and the commoners was spot on. I hate it when those debut fantasy novels have the nobility hanging out with the commoners and befriending them just because they're super nice people. Puke. Adoulla's flawed love relationship was more appealing than the one of his assistant, Raseed. I would say the love interest of Raseed was the weakest supporting character as he was very much the archetype.

I have listed more extensive details about the novel in the spoiler section below. Unlike another novel I read recently this series leaves enough things open or kept mysterious enough for me to want to pick up the next book.

WRITING STYLE/PROSE/WORD FLOW: B plus; WORLD FOCUSES: B plus; CHARACTERS/DIALOGUE: B to B plus; STORY/PLOTTING: B; WHEN READ: March to April 2012 (revised review end of June 2012); OVERALL GRADE: B plus.

** SPOILERS **



Profile Image for Algernon (Darth Anyan).
1,465 reviews927 followers
January 28, 2013

I found numerous things to like in this debut fantasy epic, and few to complain about, making it one of my top debuts of 2012, even if I only got to it in 2013. On the plus side:

- the setting: rich and original, vibrant and convincing. The source material is easily identified, from the Arabian Nights and numerous other myths and legends of the muslim culture. I have read a few other recent epics that drink from the same fountain (Dreamblood by N K Jemisin; The Demon Cycle by Peter V Brett; Psalms of Isaak by Ken Scholes) , but Saladin Ahmed strikes me as the most authentic voice, the view of the insider who gets the deep spirituality of the culture and sees beyond the murderous fanatic stereotype. There is actually one character that could be described as a religious zealot (Raseed), but most of his development will be about overcoming his limitations.

- the magic system : the story relies heavily on the supernatural and on different branches of arcane study: alchemy, shamanism (animal spirits), demonic incantations balanced by the power of the Scripture, potions, explosive powders, enchanted blades. I particularly liked the revamped zombies in the story: not the shuffling, ragged, Braiiinz! obsessed Hollywood staple, but fast and deadly constructs of sand, water, blood, skin or bones of the dead, each with special powers and vulnerabilities.

- the characters : A fine tuned balance between the world weary older crusaders against the forces of darkness and the youthfull energy and passion of their apprentices. Doctor Adoulla Makhslood is the last authentic Ghul hunter in the great metropolis of Dhamsawaat (think Baghdad at the time of Haroun Al-Rashid), now an overweight elderly gentleman fond of sticky sweets and long conversations over a cup of cardammom tea. I have a clear picture of him in my mind:


His two best friends, a couple of alchemists / healers, are similarly interested in retirement to greener pastures, but they stay on for a last fight, the most dangerous of their whole career. Raseed and Zamia are the two youths with more guts than brains, but they are both good kids and real useful in a tight spot. The possibility of romance (both the spring and the october flavor) adds a touch of spice (humor, tenderness, misunderstandings) to the proceedings.

- the prose : impressive for a debut novel: good dialogue, very fast action sequences, tight descriptions, emotional intensity.

Things I believe could have been handled better:

- The Falcon Prince: he is an interesting charcter, but I felt he was underdeveloped, he needed at least a couple of more chapters of backstory. Likewise for the Khaliff and his court

- The main adversary: remains a mystery for most of the novel, and this is a should be ( the unknown is often more terryfying than what could be clearly observed) , but ultimately I felt I knew more about his sidekick than about the evil mastermind that threatens the whole human race. Speaking of which, I'm getting a little tired of this plot device, and starting to prefer a more limited capacity for destruction.

- the naming conventions : either you create whole new words or you stick to the accepted spelling of familiar ones. Changing just one letter in a name or a noun feels like lazy worldbuilding for me: ghuls instead of ghouls, Adullah instead of Abdoullah, and so on.

Overall, Throne of the Crescent Moon was a fast paced adventure with well drawn characters and a very interesting setting. The novel works very well as a standalone, but I hope the author will return to the city of Dhamsawaat or to the neighborings kingdoms with a future installment.
Profile Image for Josh.
76 reviews14 followers
September 22, 2012
I cannot fathom how respected reviewers that I follow could give this anything more than two stars, let alone herald it as the years best debut release. Are you all on crack? Is the author paying you all off? Only once in my life have I ever not been able to finish a book (and that was in 2008 with Kate Elliott's Spirit Gate). Throne of the Crescent Moon has now brought that tally up to two.

The worst part is that at only a short 288 pages in length, it still took me a week to get halfway because I literally kept falling asleep - and I think if a book hasn't gotten any good by halfway, you know it's time to throw in the towel.

Where did it go wrong? Great title, great cover art and foremost for me a great premise - I was really looking forward to some Middle Eastern flavour after a lifetime of medieval-centric stories. That's really about it on the pros list.

Firstly, there is absolute zilch world building and character development. All I really got to learn was that there was a crowded city, a desert, an impressive palace, a square with cool statues and a green door - that's about as far as Ahmed's prodigious lack of anything descriptive gets the reader. The three main characters are about as three dimensional as a Hallmark greet card, the ones with the annoying, repetitive jingle every time you open them. Every word that comes out of Adoulla's mouth is a complaint about his age, weariness and likely impending death (other than the times he is making unexpected, unjustified wise cracks/wild bursts of outrage). This is great at the beginning for setting up a protagonist that doesn't follow the usual tropes, but by page fifteen it's getting old. Exactly the same situation with Raseed and Zamia, except old and weary was replaced with overly-pious/confused about liking vagina and woe my family is dead/I am constantly insulted, respectively.

It was like each character had one, single, simple thing that defined them and Ahmed chose to harp on about this for the entire story, rather than actually letting the characters, you know, develop and/or express at least one other facet of their personality.

Every time Raseed opened his mouth, all I heard was 'I got a- I got a- I got a pocket, got a pocket full of sunshine.'

And can anyone honestly say what any of the characters looked like, other than Zamia as a lion. Unless I missed it as I was drooling and my head was lolling backwards, this book is like reading from the perspective of a blind person.

As if any of this wasn't bad enough, the plot itself is slow-moving, predictable, unimaginative, incredibly lame and downright boring. Ahmed shows absolutely no skill or subtlety in moving the story along, instead hand delivering information to the characters on a silver platter. The worst example of this is the villain Mouw Awa, who seems to have Tourette's and within thirty seconds manages to divulge his entire identity, nature and plan to the protagonists.

And I'm sorry, but what the hell is Adoulla's magic. He plucks an object out of his skirts (sometimes not even that) and mutters a seemingly random one line of scripture and the enemy just literally falls over and dies. And then he just feels a little tired afterwards. What a freaking cop out.

The story just gets more eye-roll-worthy when they discover the identities of their enemies and it turns all anti-life, anti-existence, so dark and foul and evil that it would make Baby Jesus roll over and vomit. Well, Saladin, I had the same reaction. How about you stop harping on about how nasty these guys are and actually just show us and get on with the story.

I just put it all in the basket with guys that brag about how big their penises are.

Suffice to say I didn't like the book. I will not be moving on and pretending it never happened.
Profile Image for Ranting Dragon.
404 reviews228 followers
February 6, 2012
http://www.rantingdragon.com/throne-o...


Imagine The Arabian Nights starring Iroh of Avatar: The Last Airbender, and you’ll have a sense of what Saladin Ahmed’s debut novel is like. Throne of the Crescent Moon is one of the strongest debut novels I’ve read and will likely be a serious contender in any “Best Debut” list for this year.

Throne of the Crescent Moon follows the story of Doctor Adoulla Makshlood, the last of the true ghul hunters in the great city of Dhamsawaat. On the verge of retiring, Adoulla is forced away from his hopes and plans when he and his assistant learn of a series of grisly murders and rumors of a sinister conspiracy. Adoulla’s investigations lead him outside the city with his assistant Raseed bas Raseed, a young member of an order of holy warriors. There, they are set upon and nearly overwhelmed by a band of powerful ghuls. They only survive the encounter due to the aid of a young woman able to take the form of a lioness, Zamia Badawai, whose entire tribe was slaughtered by the ghuls. Adoulla takes Zamia under his wing, and together the three of them must unravel the mystery surrounding the Throne of the Crescent Moon Kingdoms before it’s too late.

Engaging Characters
As previously stated, the main character, Doctor Adoulla Makhslood, initially reminded me of Iroh from the 2005-2008 television series Avatar: The Last Airbender. As the story progressed, I had to revise my thoughts on the character to “Iroh, if Avatar: The Last Airbender had been a more adult show.” One of the more interesting and unique things about Adoulla as a main character is that he is over sixty years old—and isn’t part of a culture where such longevity is common. He is a very, very human character, subject to the aches and pains of extensive experience and the wear and tear of the years.

Adoulla’s assistant, Raseed, is a sixteen-year-old boy who is part of an order of holy warriors. He is prideful, and many of Adoulla’s quirks go against his training of absolute purity. Prone seeing only surface value, Raseed is quick to judge and does not discriminate between friend and foe in his quest to bring justice, with intentions mattering very little in his logic. Things become very entertaining once Zamia joins the group since is an inherent attraction between them—as young people are prone to have.

Zamia Badawai, the young woman able to take the form of a lioness, is not the exiled beautiful princess popularized by adapted fairy tales and children’s movies. In fact, her plain features are emphasized by the author, as well as used as a source of conflict within her character. Also, the tension between Zamia and Raseed is highly entertaining to read, as it takes on a variety of forms.

The prose flows ever on and on
While the premise and characters were definitely strong points of Throne of the Crescent Moon, the true strength of the novel lies in Ahmed’s ability to craft a story. The atmosphere of the novel lends and adapts itself to every scene, evolving as the story develops. Ahmed’s writing also finds that balance between giving the reader too much information and leaving too much to the reader’s imagination, something that I distinctly enjoy. Combine these elements with his character work, and Ahmed’s debut novel becomes a masterful work of worldbuilding and storytelling.

My one qualm with his writing comes not from any fault on the author’s end, but rather from my own personal biases; I am a comma junkie, and many of Ahmed’s sentences give me pause. However, in every case, the sentences were grammatically correct either with or without commas. Once I got used to Ahmed’s style of writing, it became a moot point—especially once the story really started picking up steam. Just a word of warning to any fellow comma junkies out there.

A mesmerizing world
In Throne of the Crescent Moon, Ahmed crafts a detailed world with a sense of history. The lands of the Crescent Moon Kingdoms are part of a deeply immersive world with believable history, characters, and places. The map provided in the novel complements the novel in many ways, both stylistically and informationally. Taken together, Throne of Crescent Moon creates a fantastic world that I look forward to visiting again and again.

Why should you read this book?
As debut novels go, this might well be the strongest I have read to date. Saladin Ahmed has created a fantastic debut novel with a gorgeous world and fantastic characters. But the main reason you should read this novel is Ahmed’s sheer capacity for storytelling. Available on February 7, Throne of the Crescent Moon is a novel any fantasy enthusiast should not miss.
Profile Image for Katherine.
Author 7 books54 followers
January 30, 2013
I wanted to read this book from the second I heard about it, because several bloggers I respected kept raving about how wonderful it was. It seemed like it would be a nice change--a medieval fantasy in which the pseudo-Middle-Eastern setting was the main focus of the story, not just an exotic sidetrack.

I think that was the problem: in this case, the setting was the main focus of the story--to the point where the characters and plot were used to show off the setting, rather than vice versa. Dhamsawaat seems like a very nice city, and it was nice to see all the different people who lived there--but for me the scenery and minor characters were as interesting as the protagonists, which was a problem.

PLOT SPOILERS BELOW

The concept is pretty cool. The main protagonist (there are five or six, depending on how you count) is an aging ghul-hunter named Adoulla Makhslood, who's getting too old for this crap. He and his assistant--a fanatical 17-year-old dervish named Raseed--are asked by Adoulla's old flame (a middle-aged brothel owner named Miri) to investigate the horrific murders of her niece and nephew-in-law. Turns out they've been murdered by something horrible--an Ancient Evil connected somehow to some unusually powerful ghuls that attack Adoulla and Raseed in the desert. Fortunately they are saved by a desert-dwelling shapeshifter named Zamia, who reveals that the Ancient Evil also slaughtered her entire tribe.

The three return to town, and that night the Ancient Evil destroys Adoulla's beloved townhouse and nearly kills Zamia. The three must go for help to Adoulla's old friends, an "alkhemist" named Litaz and her magic-wielding husband, Dawoud. With Miri's help, this larger team determines the source of the threat, and must join forces with a flamboyant and charismatic bandit king called The Falcon Prince to save the city from destruction.

Sounds cool, right? And most of this isn't on the jacket copy. (In fact, as I look at the jacket copy now I think it's a little deceptive.) The problem is that the descriptions I've just given are the characters. I mean, I could tell you that Adoulla's fat (it's mentioned far more often than his ghul-hunting is), or that Raseed's a really good fighter, but you don't really get a whole lot more development than that. Raseed is the only one to experience real personal growth, and it's along fairly predictable lines. There was one scene at the end of the book that really intrigued mebut that was one of the few surprises in the book for me. Most of the characters' other interactions were fairly mechanical.

The book was less than 300 pages long, with a blank page before every chapter. I'm not sure what the wordcount is, but I would guess it was in the 70-80k range--right on target for a YA novel, but a little thin for one aimed at adults. This would not have been an issue were the plot itself a little richer, but as it was I would have liked earlier mentions of the villain, an earlier introduction for Litaz and Dawoud, more interactions with The Falcon Prince, more evidence of the Khalif's cruelty... Since my main gripe with the book is its underdevelopment, I think I would have enjoyed it more with a few more threads in the tapestry.

The prose style was my last big issue. Ahmed chose to translate literally a lot of (what I assume are) traditional Arabic expressions: Litaz, for example, is properly called "Litaz Daughter-of-Likami," whereas Raseed is "Raseed-only-Raseed." This was interesting the first time, but intrusive after that... I was just about to say that I would have preferred he use the proper Arabic word, but apparently the Arabic word for "daughter of" is bint, which doesn't really fly in English. Still, characters are constantly "exchanging cheek-kisses" and "giving God's peace," and these things don't really need description or explanation after the first time, either.

And once you take out these superficial cultural markers, the story's really a fairly standard medieval fantasy. There is the difference that everyone's (generically) Muslim--and there's a lot more religion in this book than there is in the average fantasy novel, although it's so integrated with the tapestry of life that it doesn't come off as either critical or preachy. And when you take that away, you're left with a lot of traditional high-fantasy ingredients: a prologue with someone being tortured in a dungeon; a team of plucky heroes with various strengths and backgrounds; corrupt city guardsmen; stoic desert tribespeople; an Ancient Evil; shambling undead; an evil king and his sheltered, good-hearted young son; and a lot of starving commoners. To me, the most interesting parts of the story were the hints we got of what came before it--the adventures Adoulla and his friends had when they were younger, how Litaz left her family, how she and Dawoud got together, how they lost their son. I think I might have enjoyed that book more.

Anyway, I know a lot of people really liked this one, and I feel kind of bad for tearing it apart, but... I don't know. I guess I had really high expectations, and I always get annoyed when a book I'm looking forward to is disappointing. If you're interested in this one, you may well feel a totally different way about it than I did.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Mimi.
691 reviews187 followers
March 23, 2018
3½ stars

A sword & sorcery fantasy set against an Arabian Nights backdrop. The story follows the paths of three unlikely characters: Adoulla Makhslood, an aging disgruntled mage and the last ghul hunter left in the city who's still hunting ghuls; Raseed bas Raseed, the mage's young pious protege who, unfortunately, has no magic of his own but has been blessed with great strength; and Zamia Badawi, a young gifted (but self-righteous) shapeshifter from a desert tribe who no longer has a home. These three are drawn together by circumstance--a powerful sorcerer is creating powerful ghuls and letting them loose to slaughter in the desert. For Adoulla and Raseed, it's their duty to rid the land of evil, but for Zamia the journey is one of vengeance and self-sacrifice. There's also a royal conspiracy plot running in the background.

This is a fun story and I enjoyed it quite a bit. There's adventure, tension, humor, awkward first love, retirement jokes, fights over customs and ideologies, and a good amount of peril. The set-up reminds me somewhat of Peter V. Brett's The Warded Man but better executed--better plotted and better written overall. As the first of the trilogy, this book shows a glimpse of what the rest of the trilogy could be and there's a lot of potential here.
Profile Image for [Name Redacted].
780 reviews389 followers
May 21, 2018
There's not a lot to say about this one, other than that it's worth a read. Ahmed undertakes something both bold and unique -- an Islamic fantasy novel, set in another world which closely parallels our own in the medieval period (not unlike something Guy Gavriel Kay might write), but in which an Islamic God and angels and holy scripture (still) exist. It is exactly that feature which makes it so Islamic, and yet so unusual -- it posits that there is another world (or maybe an alternate version of our own?) but assumes that God is God there too, and a traitorous angel is a problem there to, and that (of course) a prophet would need to have been called to preach God's word there too. This is the sort of thing you'd expect from a Latter-Day Saint (aka: "Mormon") writer, but a Muslim? It is at once radically innovative and perfectly, obviously logical!

So it's interesting, it's innovative, it's uniquely Muslim... But it's also fairly weak at points. Ahmed focuses heavily on dialogue, which is very well done, but the descriptions are sorely lacking and you never get a terribly good picture of the world or the scenes or...anything. He glosses over it in some ways, and that is to his detriment. The ending is also somewhat weak, petering out abruptly and unnecessarily.

So, 3 stars. A great concept executed unevenly, and I hope Ahmed writes more, better novels in the future.
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 5 books3,851 followers
April 23, 2013
I'm kind of surprised this traditional fantasy novel was shortlisted for the Hugo, not because it isn't good, but because it is traditional fantasy. That being said, the flow of the novel was top rate and a quick read, truly giving us a feel of the Arabian Nights universe while focusing mostly on great action, great characterization, and a solid plot. As a piece of writing, it is better than most fantasy I've ever read, but it might not stay in my mind because it didn't challenge me. It might challenge anyone who hasn't read the Arabian Nights or anything with an Arab-centric viewpoint, but honestly, that was probably the most beautiful part of the whole tale. It is certainly a welcome respite from cookie-cutter fantasy plots. I am giving it a well-deserved 5 stars!
Profile Image for Kara Babcock.
1,894 reviews1,211 followers
June 9, 2012
Every so often I read reviews that talk about a book or an author being “a breath of fresh air” to a genre or market, and I scoff and wonder what that means. Now I know, because that’s how I would describe Throne of the Crescent Moon. After so many fantasy novels based on a pseudo-medieval European setting, it’s just refreshing to see someone use a pseudo-Islamic setting. Moreover, Saladin Ahmed tells the story in a way that makes it feel like urban fantasy—just not urban fantasy set in the present day. The city of Dhamsawaat is in trouble indeed.

Throne of the Crescent Moon follows Dr. Adoulla Makhslood, an aged ghul-hunter, and his apprentice, the dervish Raseed. The halcyon days of ghul-hunting have long since passed, and Adoulla is one of the last of his order. He’s feeling his age, and his gruff and irreverent character is one of the best things about this book. It’s even better when juxtaposed with the serious seventeen-year-old Raseed, who is obsessed with honour, duty, and not being tempted by attractive young women. When the only survivor of a decimated Badawi tribe joins them, and she happens to be a young woman who can shapeshift into a lion and has a ferocious personality to match, Raseed runs into some difficulties in that last department.

Even the minor characters are far from stock. Ahmed hints at a backstory to each one, previous dealings with Adoulla or Adoulla’s friends that have left them in his debt. It gives the impression that even if Ahmed isn’t telling us everything (why would he?) he has a lot of it figured out—exactly the sort of impression an author should give.

Similarly, Ahmed avoids unnecessary exposition when it comes to describing his world or the history of the Crescent Moon Kingdoms. I suspect that some readers will find this unsatisfying and declaim a lack of worldbuilding. Yet what Ahmed chooses to reveal indicates his world is there and consistent—he just isn’t interested in showing it off at the expense of the story. Which is as it should be. It’s frustrating, sometimes, to hear Adoulla talk about something only in passing when it would clearly make for an interesting diversion—but the result is a book that is briskly paced and never dull.

This is fortunate. Though the plot has admirable layers of complexity, it is ultimately not very complicated, and I’m glad Ahmed did not try to build it up more slowly. Throne of the Crescent Moon has many qualities, but subtlety is not one of them. Instead of showing us the sexual tension between Raseed and Zamia, Ahmed tells us all about it almost from the first time they meet. Instead of gradually hinting and foreshadowing at the nature of the Falcon Prince’s involvement, he keeps us in the dark and then reveals everything just prior to the climax. Though there is nothing wrong with these decisions per se, they make the story feel more linear and much more predictable.

I also wish Throne of the Crescent Moon had a strong, compelling antagonist. As it is, the villain is literally without voice. Instead, its mouthpiece is its minion, Mouw Awa, who is quite insane. And when the climax comes and the good guys square off against Mouw Awa’s master for the fate of Dhamsawaat and maybe the world … well, without going into detail, it was disappointing. It was over too soon, and it was a little too easy. Despite all the groundwork Ahmed lays for Adoulla’s internal conflict about his age and Raseed’s insecurities about his dutifulness and righteousness, it never really comes together. This is all the more unfortunate because I was really enjoying the book up until the ending—which didn’t let me down so much as just not live up to the expectations the rest of the book had established.

Throne of the Crescent Moon is rich in refreshing imagery, magic use, and cool characters. It’s very original, in the sense that Ahmed is working outside the typical scope of mainstream fantasy settings, and he does it well. The ending needs work, and the characterization could have been a lot more subtle. But I’d still recommend it, because it has that refreshing voice reviewers are always prattling on about. I should know. Apparently I’m one of them now.

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Profile Image for K.J. Charles.
Author 57 books7,658 followers
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July 5, 2018
Middle Eastern fantasy, with djenns and ghuls and dervishes and all sorts of Sinbad-type fun. It's mostly the adventures of a fat old ghul-hunter and his serious young companion plus their companions, including a young tribeswoman who turns into a lion.

Surprisingly horrific at points--the baddie really is evil and the bits where we see him at work torturing an unfortunate chap are quite hard to read, and rather against the high-body-count action-movie feel of the rest of the book.

It's vividly imagined and very atmospheric and the plot rattles along well, underpinned by some real emotion and moral dilemmas. I slightly felt it needed another editorial pass, particularly in the latter stages. It's extremely common, particularly in SFF, to read the first three chapters, marvel at the polish, and then by sixty percent you can see that the later text hasn't been gone over at anything like the same level. It always annoys me--the opening sells this book, but the ending sells the next book, so it's a bit self defeating from publishers.

Notwithstanding, it's fabulous to have any fantasy that isn't Eurocentric, and this is a lovely addition to my small but growing shelves of those. A good read though I enjoyed Engraved on the Eye more, simply because all the stories were polished to the level of which the author is clearly capable. Keen to see what else he's got.
Profile Image for Bookwraiths.
698 reviews1,023 followers
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February 8, 2018
Originally reviewed at Bookwraiths.

“Dhamsawatt, King of Cities, Jewel of Abassen
A thousand thousand men pass through and pass in
Packed patchwork of avenues, alleys, and walks
Such bookshops and brothels, such schools and stalls
I’ve wed all your streets, made your night air my wife
For he who tires of Dhamsawaat tires of life”


This is the home of the protagonist of our story: Doctor Adoulla Makhslood, and he is the last “real” ghul hunter in the city, though there are always charlatans about who prey on the ignorant. However, Adoulla is getting old; his desire to continually risk his life destroying heart eating ghuls and other magical monsters waning as his years lengthen. Indeed, he finds that now his heart’s desire lies in the comfort of his beloved city, his simple house, the familiarity of his books, the soothing taste of his favorite tea, and a desire to settle down with the love of his life – a woman who adores him but despises his ghul hunting ways.

No matter his desires, there is horrible trouble brewing. Adoulla feels it within his soul. A terrible evil is stalking his beloved Dhamsawatt. That is why he continues to have the nightmares. Dreams where he finds himself walking through “streets, waist high in a river of blood . . . Everything tinted red – the color of the Traitorous Angel . . . And all about him the people of Dhamsawatt dead and disemboweled.

With such horrid visions haunting his sleep, how can Adoulla do anything but continue his ghul hunting. Who would replace him?

Not his young assistant Raseed bas Raseed. No, that young holy man and warrior might be a devote follower of the Almighty God and an expert swordsman, but he lacks both the desire and the training to replace Adoulla. Though the doctor can admit, at least to himself, that the boy is helpful beyond measure and has even saved his life more than a few times.

The only others who have ever shared Adoulla’s path in life are his neighbors and fast friends, Dawoud, a weaver of spells, and his wife, Litaz, expert of the art of alkhemy. They have aided him time and time again, shared his hardships and triumphs over horrendous foes, and suffered personal losses greater than he could ever understand. Yet they have their own life, and Litaz tires of Dhamsawatt, wishing to return to their homeland far to the west and south.

Alas, if anyone must face this horrid ghul apocalypse, it has fallen to Adoulla – though he feels too old and must call upon his friends to aid him.

This is how Throne of the Crescent Moon begins. Great setup for a story! (And did I mention how awesome that cover was?) Well, between that cover and this beginning, I really thought this would be an interesting read. But as I kept flipping the pages, I kept missing something. Something I assumed was my fault for not seeing, but as I tried harder to locate it, it became painfully obvious the author had not included it in this novel.

What was missing you ask?

A sense of urgency.

To me a story is a multi-faceted thing. It needs an interesting plot (several of them is better), well-rounded characters, good magic system (in a fantasy book), and a sense of urgency to make me care what is going on. One is just as important as the other, but there MUST be urgency. This urgency can be numerous things: war, political intrigue, environment disaster, zombie apocalypse, et cetera. It doesn’t really matter as long as a reader I feel like I’m caught up in a wave of events that is propelling me forward through the pages, making me desire to keep reading to see how it all ends. If I do not feel any urgency, chances are I’m not really “into” the book.

As I read along with Throne of the Crescent Moon, I was never swept up in events. How could I be when the characters themselves were so apathetic about the whole ghul apocalypse. Honestly, our protagonist, Adoulla, is having these horrid nightmares, but he spends paragraph after paragraph filled with concerns about getting too old for all this, his love of tea, his comfortable home, and his desire to reignite a relationship with his lady love. All these things seemed more important to him than actually stopping this massive threat of genocide.

If the ghul apocalypse is so horrible, why isn’t our hero frantically trying to find the way to stop it instead of drinking tea?

Who knows. But Adoulla isn’t. Nor his assistant Raseed. Nor Dawoud. Nor Litaz. Not even Zamia, whose whole tribe has been killed by this monster. Nope, they methodically go about their personal lives. They take time to have tea, celebrate a feast, visit old lovers to reignite past relationships, are love sick over one another, and generally act as if there is no sense of urgency to anything. I mean, it is just a ghul apocalypse. Guess they deal with this sort of thing all the time. No need to get help. Naw, they got this. Just go home and drink some more tea, good citizens.

This lack of urgency was even present in the fight scenes – the few there were. Let me give an example. At one point, Litaz and Zamia get in an altercation with some religious fanatics, and they begin to argue, setting up the fight to come. Here is an excerpt from this big “altercation.”

“Suri,” Litaz repeated. “A beautiful name. And very, very old.” She turned to the Students with a clearly forced smile. “Surely you brothers see the sign from Almighty God here? The Heavenly Chapters’ story of Suri says “O Headsman, drop your sword and serve His mercy! O Flogger, drop your whip and serve His mercy!’”

The gray-haired Student spread a conciliatory hand, but he sneered as he did so. “The Chapters also say ‘And yea, proper punishment is the sweetest mercy,’ do they not? A new era is coming, outlander? An era when only those who walk the path prescribed will prosper.”


You can feel the adrenaline pumping in this altercation, can’t you?

In that excerpt, you probably also noticed that there was a good bit of scripture quoting. This is the norm, not the exception in this novel. In fact, the characters are quoting holy scriptures all the time, no matter what the situation. Now, I agree this quoting of holy scripture was part of the characters’ cultures, but it became too repetitive, reading as filler material after a while. Can’t explain my dislike other than to say it was just distracting.

I did finish this book, but I did so more out of a need for completion than any desire to see how the “story” ended. The focus of the novel seemed to be the people and the city, so eventually, I tried to just get to know them instead of looking for a grand storyline. After I did that, the reading became easier, because Adoulla, Baseer, Zamia, Damoud, and Latiz became real people to me. I knew about their likes and dislikes, their dreams and regrets, and even their personal habits – Adoulla liked tea very much. And by the end, I felt as if I had lived a few days with them in glorious Dhamsawaat, which was okay. I suppose I focused on the journey and not the destination.

Now, this Saladin Ahmed’s novel will not go on my favorite list, but I do not regret reading it. It was a close call with me if this was a 2 star or 3 star book, but since I can’t see myself ever rereading it, I went for 2. I personally like more epic stories with lots of action or suspense, and if you feel the same, I doubt you will find this book enjoyable. However, if you can read it just for the characters, it might be right up your alley.
Profile Image for Wendy.
598 reviews132 followers
June 26, 2014
(3.5 stars) It’s refreshing to read a fantasy story that isn’t set in good old medieval Europe, where everyone is blond and blue eyed and any exotic cast members have to be repeatedly singled out for their exoticness. Throne of the Crescent Moon takes place in a Middle Eastern setting, but Ahmed instantly makes it feel like home by walking us into a tea house with Dr. Adoulla Makhslood, who initially appears to be the main protagonist. Adoulla is, by no means, a typical hero. He is an older, larger man contemplating retirement from the brutal and deadly career of ghul hunting, but is dragged back into it with a ghastly mass death at the hands of a surprisingly large number of ghuls. Who is powerful enough to create and control so many of the hideous creatures, and how are they able to seemingly sever the souls of their victims?

The hunt leads Adoulla and his apprentice—a tight-laced young man of God with a sharp blade but little street smarts—into the desert. There they face down the ghul pack with the help of a fierce young tribeswoman who has lost her clan to the same killers.

What I enjoyed most about this tale wasn’t the action (though it was very good when it occurred), or even the over all plot (which dragged in the middle and then came together too abruptly at the end). I loved the characters—specifically the juxtaposition of the different personalities, beliefs and relationships as Ahmed brings the group together to resolve the situation. I was surprised when the point of view switched over first to Raseed, Adoulla’s young assistant, and then to Zamia, the tribeswoman. Then I was pleasantly surprised when it also included chapters from the perspective of Adoulla’s friends, an older couple comprised of a mage and an alchemist who are very much in love, and like Adoulla, want to get away from the dangers around them. Ahmed lets us see both the story and the other characters through their eyes. The devout Raseed, who’s actions are tempered by doubt and shame when he fails his beliefs. Litaz, the middle-aged healer who exudes confidence, but longs to return to the simplicity of her home. Dawoud, her husband, who adores her dearly, but fears what the cost of his magical abilities will ultimately do to their relationship. Adoulla, the jaded hunter who envies the relationship his friends have. And Zamia, the Angel-touched warrior “savage,” who cannot abide the heathens whom she has been forced to work with to avenge her lost tribe.

Each brings their unique insight into the story and it is interesting to see them each grow and change—Although, surprisingly, it is the older protagonists that do the most growing and changing. Raseed struggles with his rigid beliefs and his sudden fondness for Zamia, but there is little pay off for the reader in this, and Zamia herself becomes a very flat character after such a promising beginning.

Political intrigue rears its ugly head within the plot, as the city of Dhamsawaat deals with a greedy and out of touch Khalif, versus the Falcon Prince—a Robin Hood-type character with questionable motivations. Meanwhile, looming ominously over everything is a deadly mage and his minions.

Religion also plays somewhat of a role, though Ahmed is by no means preaching. Religious beliefs define the characters in many ways. For some, like Raseed, it is a limitation, as he struggles to consolidate his beliefs with his duties and with his natural feelings toward Zamia. Though Adoulla's disrespectful admonishment of Raseed's devotion sometimes became tedious, this was another element of the relationship between the characters that I enjoyed seeing play out.

Though I wasn’t impressed with how everything wrapped up in the end, or in the lack of depth that went into the magic used, I enjoyed Ahmed’s crisp and descriptive writing style and absolutely loved some of his very memorable and unique characters.

See more reviews at www.BiblioSanctum.com
Profile Image for Sarah.
Author 17 books412 followers
March 27, 2012
The highest compliment I can pay Throne of the Crescent Moon is to say that it made me incredibly hungry. I know what you’re thinking, “Sarah, that is a weird compliment to pay a book,” but hear me out. Throne of the Crescent Moon was so well done, the culture was so vibrant, the world was so colorful and reminiscent of the Middle East that every time I read the book I wanted to eat tons of kebobs and cucumbers. Indeed, this is the first book I have ever complained that it was too short. That right there says volumes.

In the end, Throne of the Crescent Moon is one hell of a debut by one incredibly promising author. I can’t wait to see what’s next.

Read my full review here:
http://bookwormblues.blogspot.com/201...
Profile Image for Peter.
Author 63 books11.6k followers
July 1, 2012
Ahmed has created a fascinating new fantasy setting with a rich feeling of its own history, but with enough parallels to our own world to make it easy to relate to its problems and peoples.

Throne was a really fun read. Ahmed's prose style is fluid and accessible, and his villains are truly terrifying without going over the top and becoming cartoonish. Ahmed claims he wanted to bring back the feel of the Dragonlance or Forgotten Realms novels he loved when he was younger, and in this, he has succeeded.

I would have liked this book to be another hundred pages or so, with more exploration into the characters and their motivations/love interests. The ending tied up most of the loose ends neatly, but I felt the book rushed to its conclusion.

Profile Image for Mogsy (MMOGC).
1,989 reviews2,584 followers
November 14, 2012
What fantasy readers would call "Sword and Sorcery", though with a touch of Arabian Nights. Started off very promising, but both plot and characters started wearing on me after a while. I feel it's one of those stories that could really be told in about fifty pages, and the main character was the only one I found interesting and not irritating. The rest of the gang felt as formulaic as the plot line which is a shame, though the unique setting of the book went a long way in making up for this.

I also loved the writing, though sometimes the formal and almost lyrical style of it had the unfortunate effect of making the storytelling feel "flat" and seemingly uninspired.
Profile Image for Melissa McShane.
Author 57 books733 followers
April 18, 2012
I have mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, the fantasy universe is well-realized, detailed and interesting. It feels like an Arabian Nights story from a parallel universe, but one in which the purely fantastical elements co-exist with mundane reality. I particularly liked that the city Dhamsawaat was a detailed, cosmopolitan place, which supports the idea that the ghul-hunters (represented by one of the main characters, Adoulla) might be declining in number. There's something about the growth of cities that seems to inhibit the power of magical creatures, and Adoulla's inability to give up the life despite getting old is melancholy.

On the other hand, there's an irregularity to the story's flow that made it hard for me to warm to the plot or the characters. Things are emphasized that turn out to be unimportant. Action becomes intense and then fades to nothing, or is intense in the wrong places. For example: two of the POV characters encounter some street thugs out to deliver religious "chastisement" to an innocent young woman and defeat them, saving the girl and humiliating the bullies. Perfectly reasonable plot element for describing the culture of the city, or establishing character, or even setting up later events. It might have worked had it not occurred three-fourths of the way into the book and taken most of six pages to describe, as well as introducing a religious group never before mentioned that is still well-known enough to the POV characters that it probably should have been mentioned before. It's far too intense an encounter for that part of the plot--a complaint I could make about a number of other parts of the story.

I was more interested in the older characters than the two young ones, Raseed the dervish and Zamia the Badawi shapeshifter, who seemed to be running on rails. There's never any question that they're going to fall in love, despite having no reason to do so. Their love is fated not to be because...actually Ahmed supports this well, but that doesn't change the fact that it was Meant To Be by the gods of narrative. Personally, I would have liked to see Raseed implode; he's been raised to idealize personal purity and chastity, but he hasn't yet come to terms with the fact that he's going to have desires, and that they don't mean he's a failure. He seemed to go from being wound tighter than, I don't know, something really tight, to accepting the possibility of life with Zamia, with almost no existential crisis. Zamia, for her part, has a number of interesting personal problems, but there's just no space in this book for her to really resolve them. And maybe that's the problem; at 274 pages, this is far too slim for five POV characters to move about freely.

Saladin Ahmed (have I mentioned that this is just an incredibly cool name?) says this is the first volume of a series, but so many of the plotlines are wrapped up here that I have trouble imagining what the next book might be about. I may pick it up, just to find out, but I probably won't go out of my way for it.
Profile Image for Wealhtheow.
2,407 reviews535 followers
June 15, 2012
Doctor Adoulla Makhslood is the last ghul hunter in Dhamsawaat. Constantly battling mystical monsters for little material award, his only assistant is the pious dervish Raseed bas Raseed. Although Adoulla is magically powerful and Raseed is prodigiously quick and strong, they nearly die fighting an unusually large group of ghuls. Luckily, a lion shifter enters the fray and saves their lives. The lion-girl Zamia (a Badawi whose entire clan was killed by ghuls) and Raseed find themselves drawn to each other despite their vows to dedicate themselves to fighting evil. All their skills are not enough, however, and so alkhemist Lady Litaz and her magician husband Dawoud are called in to help. And complicating matters is the Falcon Prince, Pharaad Az Hammaz, who steals from the rich to give to the poor and who may prove to be any ally or a deadly enemy.

It's all written in a very clunky, amauterish style. Despite the demons and thief-kings and unresolved sexual tension, I was so bored I almost couldn't get through it. Ahmed's short stories are wonderful; I'm not sure why he wrote a book so charmless.
Profile Image for Fares.
246 reviews316 followers
December 5, 2018
I'm sorry but if your villain is called Mouw Awa and the narrator keeps pronouncing it mawawa I'm going to laugh and not care how bad he is XD
Profile Image for fatma.
874 reviews509 followers
March 30, 2017
This was just really bland and tropey and boring. I can't even write a fun ranty review about it because it wasn't bad, per se, just overdone. I really appreciated the Middle-East-inspired setting though. Always nice to see fantasy that isn't overwhelmingly white.
Profile Image for Stewart Tame.
2,280 reviews88 followers
May 9, 2018
Positively magnificent! This is one of the best fantasy novels I’ve read in some time. The setting is the great city of Dhamsawaat, capital of the Crescent Moon Kingdoms. This is glorious fantasy by way of the Arabian Nights.

Dr. Adoulla Mahkslood is a ghul hunter, among the last of a dying breed. He’s growing tired of hunting monsters and saving lives. Retirement is starting to sound attractive. But when a young boy is brought to him, a boy whose parents have been slain by ghuls, and whose aunt is the only woman Adoulla has ever loved, he agrees to help.

Raseed bas Raseed is a holy warrior, a dervish, and assistant to the Doctor in his work. He’s a stickler for rules and tradition and the perfect foil for the more easygoing ghul hunter.

Zamia Badawi is Protector of the Band, the only female ever to hold that title in her nomadic tribe. She can take the shape of a lion, which makes her a formidable warrior. When members of her tribe are slaughtered, including her own father, she swears vengeance upon his killer, and soon realizes that the Doctor and Raseed are hunting the same foe.

There are a few other viewpoint characters, but this book's delights are best appreciated by reading it for oneself. If, like me, you grow weary of the endless stream of swords and dragons and European castles that typify so much of fantasy writing, this is the book for you. Walter Jon Williams, in a quote on the back cover, compares it to the stories of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. It's an apt comparison. As in Fritz Lieber’s tales, there are fully realized characters and a strong sense of location, and magic, while powerful, is never easy, and comes at a price.

Inside the front cover is the usual map, but most of the locations outside of Dhamsawaat itself are merely referred to, not seen. I look forward to seeing them in subsequent books, which I’m confident will be every bit as memorable as this one. Recommended!
Profile Image for TheBookSmugglers.
669 reviews1,970 followers
March 23, 2013
Originally reviewed on Kirkus' SFF Blog

Doctor Adoulla Makhslood, the last real ghul hunter in the great city of Dhamsawaat, sighed as he read the lines. His own case, it seemed, was the opposite. He often felt tired of life, but he was not quite done with Dhamsawaat. After threescore and more years on God’s great earth, Adoulla found that his beloved birth city was one of the few things he was not tired of. The poetry of Ismi Shihab was another.


The Kingdoms of the Crescent Moon face a terrible threat. The rule of the almighty Khalif is cruel and corrupt, and his reign is challenged from within by theatrical master-thief Pharaad Az Hammaz, the so-called Falcon Prince. While the Falcon Prince stirs up trouble on the streets of the city of Dhamsawaat, the kingdom faces a larger, faceless threat from a malevolent force: Ghuls, great monsters of sand, skin and magic, are conjured by this great evil, and they will kill anyone in their path.

For the last great Ghul hunter in the kingdom, Doctor Adoulla Makhslood, and his young Dervish priest apprentice, Raseed bas Raseed, the violence and death are frightening to the extreme. Though Adoulla is old, tired and only wants to leave his past behind to retire in the arms of his soul mate, Miri, he cannot rest until he has ensured his beloved city is safe from a prophecy of blood and death. Joining Adoulla and apprentice Raseed in their onerous task is Zamia Banu Laith Badawi, a 15-year-old girl who has already witnessed great tragedy. The Ghuls killed her entire clan, an atrocity all the more bitter because the slaughter occurred under her watch. Zamia is no ordinary young woman, but an angel-touched shapeshifter, both a lioness and a woman at once. Vowing vengeance for her murdered band, Zamia joins the Doctor and his Dervish partner, and together the trio sets out to save the throne of the Crescent Moon from the face of true evil.

The debut novel from Saladin Ahmed, Throne of the Crescent Moon came out last year to warm reception; this past month, the book made the shortlist of nominees for Best Novel in the annual Nebula Awards. Since a nomination for the Nebula is one of the most prestigious SFF honors, handpicked by members of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), I had to purchase the book immediately. And, for the most part, I can understand the love for this book. Throne of the Crescent Moon is an undeniably fun and action-packed read, featuring endearing characters and a compelling, refreshingly non-white, non-Western European setting. Wonderfully fast-paced, with plenty of scenes of blood, magic and death, Ahmed is a natural when it comes to action scenes and moving the story forward in clashes of steel and brilliant flares of sorcery. I also thoroughly enjoyed the world Ahmed creates in the Kingdoms of the Crescent Moon: the deep religious beliefs, the rigid monarchy, and the social strata that divide its inhabitants.

Most of all, however, I loved the main characters that for the novel’s core and serve as the true emotional driving force of the book. Doctor Adoulla—affectionately nicknamed “Doullie” by his friends—is an old man that loves his things and the one woman who will own his heart until the day he dies. Adoulla is not just some weary, wizened Van Helsing type, though—he has his strong unconventional opinions, a love for food and life, and quite the social, outgoing personality. His apprentice, Raseed, is another fantastic character, rigidly adhering to the letter of his faith, though he eventually does question and open his heart and mind to things outside his scripture. And, of course, there is Zamia. Oh, Zamia. Lioness shapeshifter, fiercely proud to the point of ignorance, but loyal to a fault, Zamia is an infuriating but eminently endearing heroine. (I dare you to read this book and not fall in love with the headstrong Zami. Go for it. I dare you.)

While there are so many wonderful things going for this book, there are a few significant flaws, too. Most notably, the writing is overwrought and manufactured, with awkward failed attempts at Arabian Nights–style antiquity. Of course, the greatest shortcoming of Throne of the Crescent Moon—that is, its similarity (and admitted inferiority) to fellow Nebula nominee N.K. Jemisin’s The Killing Moon—isn’t any fault of the book or author. Nevertheless, the comparisons are unavoidable. Like Jemisin’s novel, Crescent Moon is set in a similar type of Near Eastern setting. Both books feature a trio of protagonists, including one wizened old leader, his warrior priest apprentice and a prickly, powerful woman. Both books also feature a great evil awakening and draining the land slowly of its magic. Of course, there are plenty of differences between the two texts, but if Jemisin’s book is a beautiful, slow-simmering ossobuco of a novel, Ahmed’s is more of a Big Mac: delicious and hits the spot, but lacks the nuance, finesse and depth of the Dreamblood books.

All things said and done, Throne of the Crescent Moon is still an undeniably fun read, and I’m happy to see it up for the Nebula. I’ll certainly be back for the next installment.

In Book Smugglerish, a rousing 7 sand-Ghuls out of 10.
Profile Image for Nathan.
399 reviews123 followers
March 11, 2012
I am going to go ahead and admit that this book did not live up to my expectations, but that is more on ignorance from me going into it. I was expecting something different, a unique setting coming from a different perspective from most fantasy.

What I got was a fairly run of the mill, though very tightly written, fantasy book that was enjoyable, but didn't rock my world or challenge my way of thinking.

The Good? For one thing, more fantasy authors need to take a page from Ahmed on the book length. This was a quick read, never slogged, didn't have pages upon pages of descriptions, and yet never felt rushed either. Just like a groan if I see a movie is two hours long these days, I enjoy these quick reads sometimes.

I also loved the main character. An elderly, overweight vulgar man with a heart of gold. He did not have hidden depths, but that was ok for this story. I still felt his pain when he lost something important, knew he cared for those under his care, and believed that while he had regrets, they were not from past evils, only normal human choices.

I also enjoyed the lighter tone. Lord knows I have read my share of GRIMDARK, and the prologue gave the impression that this may be one of them. But while this wasn't a kids story, Ahmed wasn't one to dwell on the blood and violence.

There were some enjoyable secondary characters as well, a husband/wife team that help out being the best.

The Bad? For one the world building. Not much there at all. Part of that allows for the quick pace I enjoyed, but perhaps it was taken too far. The magic system seems completely made up, is it based on faith or something separate? Does it have limitations or is it unlimited in use? Who knows, certainly not the reader after it ends.

I also did not enjoy the two "sidekicks," for lack of better word. The main characters apprentice could have been interesting, torn between his faith and the world that is actually in front of him. But it never really clicked, and I never really felt his tension(to see this aspect work better, read God's War by Hurley). The main female protagonist is only a set piece. She gets rescued, does a rescue, and follows around the hero, and has a very minor love side story.

That may seem like a lot of bad , but I really did enjoy this book. It is my fault, I was hoping for the NEXT GREAT DEBUT from a fantasy author, and instead got a enjoyable but fairly forgettable read.
Profile Image for Cassi aka Snow White Haggard.
459 reviews154 followers
October 28, 2012
Guys, can Middle-Eastern fantasy be my new thing? I know I've only read a grand total of two or three Middle-Eastern fantasy books but I kind of love them.Throne of the Crescent Moon is a solid high fantasy. While it may not doing anything groundbreaking or different, what it does, it does well.

One of my favorite things about this book is the humor, the little teasing jabs between friends. I always like characters who can make jokes while saving the world. They're much better than the heroes who take themselves too seriously.

I want to talk about romance in fantasy a little bit. Theres a right way and a wrong way. The wrong way is particularly popular in YA right now, the love story because the central and overwhelming plot despite life-threatening world-destroying dangers going on outside of the relationship. The right way is in the background, where there are two characters who obviously like each other but are too busy saving the world to deal with that right now. This book has a very sweet first crush. They are young gifted warriors and they're in such denial that it's adorable. When romance is background to the fantasy storyline, it gives the reader something to root for. You want the world to be saved, peace to reign so that main characters can finally get their kiss on.

For me, the characters and their relationship with faith is where this book shines. Raseed is a young overly pious holy warrior, who is working with Doctor Adoulla Makhslood, a somewhat sacrilegious ghul hunter. Adoulla serves God by fighting demons, but breaks other rules whenever he wants to. Raseed struggles with loyalty and faith. Raseed serves Adoulla, who saves lives and serves God. But in a lot of ways Adoulla is rather unholy. Adoulla obviously believes in God, but struggles with the sacrifices he's made in his life as a ghul-hunter. It's an interesting dynamic, faith and disobedience intertwined in a way that feels very realistic. People are rarely completely good, usually even people of faith pick the rules they follow and the rules they choose to disregard.

This book is a great adventurous tale with ghul hunting, magic and conspiracy. But it also has a little bit of first-love and questions of faith to give it a little more depth. I wish more books were this fun to read.
Profile Image for Leticia.
358 reviews1 follower
August 25, 2014
I loved it, and I can only explain that being really, really personal about it.

When I was 10, I was in a theater company. At the time, I though acting was what I wanted from life and art and I loved it deeply. The only other things I did on my spare time were drawing, reading and running around with cats*. So, when our company's director said he was writing a script based on some stories from The Thousand and One Nights, stories I didn't know and all adults in the company though I should, I went looking for a book. I found an omnibus edition. It was, of course, a mighty big book, the biggest I had ever seen. The only way I convinced my mother to buy that juggernaut was promising I would read it all. So I did. It took me about two months. I would carry the book everywhere I went and read whenever possible**. I still have it, old and dog eared as it is. It is, after all, the book that taught me two of the most important lessons in my life:
- That I can read anywhere, and reading will always keep me safe.
- And that having and imagination and making up stories will save your life, if you let it.

The thing is, until I read The Thousand and One Nights, I wasn't aware that I, as a girl that made up stories, could someday become a writer.

Reading Throne of The Crescent moon I suddenly found myself revisiting a place inside that I haven't though about in a while. The descriptions took me back to those sumptuous palaces and deserts that first gave me the will to write.
Of course Saladin Ahmed's book has its own merits. The characters are human and interesting, specially the women and the city (oh, yeah, that city is a character). The story is a solid adventure with a slight moral basis, mostly due to the character's religion, which doesn't means our heroes are purely good (the thing I loved the most about Adoulla was his terrible temper, after all). It is a story with heart, a story that loves. And, in my very personal case, a story that reminds me I can write. And for that, I thank him.

Thank you Saladin Ahmed. I had a dark time this year, but now it's gone. Your book dispelled it.



* I haven't changed much, really.
** A habit I've kept since then. I actually read while walking.
Profile Image for Paloma orejuda (Pevima).
496 reviews43 followers
January 26, 2021
Pues... me cuesta creer que este libro sea ganador de un premio. Es lento, aburrido, no tiene giros, y los personajes tampoco son la repera...

**Alerta Spoiler!!

1.-La historia. Adoulla es un anciano cazador de gules (monstruos de magia oscura?) que vive en Damshawat (o algo así) el corazón de los reinos de la luna creciente. Cuando una serie de asesinatos amenazan con romper la paz de la ciudad, paz que ya está en peligro por las intenciones del príncipe Halcón de usurpar el trono al califa, Adoulla se pone a investigarlos junto con su aprendiz. Y en el transcurso de esa caza-investigación de gules, descubrirán que lo que está pasando es mucho más complejo que unos simples asesinatos, un ser antiguo y sobrenatural quiere destruir el mundo. Suena bien, sí, pero se queda con eso, con el sonar, porque enganchar... no engancha.

2.-Los personajes. Adoulla, un viejo gordo y amargado cuya magia tan alabada, se limita a cuatro frases murmuradas en todo el libro. Una pena la verdad, el autor habría podido hacer que se luciera con hechizos o algo, pero nope.
Raseed bas Rassed, el aprendiz, un muchacho derviche que vive por y para cumplir con dios y destruir monstruos.
Zamia, una Badawi capaz de convertirse en leona, pero que no pudo evitar la muerte de los miembros de su clan, masacrados por un gul. Su vida es la venganza.
Y luego ya el príncipe Halcón, un loco con ideales (lo que lo hace peligroso), dispuesto a asesinar al califa y al heredero un niño. Y la pareja de Soo, un matrimonio de ancianos compañeros de aventuras de Adoulla.
Y el malo y su mascota de los que no se puede decir que conozcamos demasiado sus motivaciones. Son malos y punto.
Personajes flojos, que no dicen mucho, que siempre están renegando y lamentándose.

3.-La pluma, la trama y demás. Está correctamente escrito, pero los capítulos son muy largos y pesados. Le falta acción a raudales y los cambios de punto de vista son algo desconcertantes, sobretodo en los capítulos finales, donde entremezcla los de todos los protagonistas. Además, la magia, que se supone que es de lo más importante del libro, no está explotada. Se centra demasiado en la amargura y dilemas de los personajes, y ni siquiera eso resulta interesante. La trama es bastante floja, demasiadas páginas paro lo poco que sucede en ellas. No hay giros, y lo poco que hay se ve venir. Y el problema no está en que los personajes sean viejos, sino en que no los aprovecha y los hace aburridos. Y a los jóvenes los hace demasiado solemnes... Nope, nope.

4.-El final. Cerrado y abierto a la vez. Termina ahí, con el El príncipe Halcón sentado en el trono, sin saber muy bien si será para bien o para mal. Con los jóvenes más perdidos que nunca y con el viejo gordo de Adoulla feliz porque se va a casar... Pues, eso, que a excepción de una ligerísima curiosidad por saber que va a pasar con Zamia y Rassed, te deja totalmente indiferente. Pues... OK, a otra cosa...

En fin 1,5 estrellas sobre 5 que finalmente serán 2, porque por lo menos no te hace querer arrancarte los ojos por estar mal escrito, aunque la escritura tampoco sea una maravilla.

**Popsugar 2021 categoría 6 del reto avanzado: Un libro de tu lista TBR que tenías la intención de leer el año pasado pero no lo hiciste.

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