THRONE OF THE CRESCENT MOON is the debut novel by Saladin Ahmed. And what a brilliant debut it is! I haven’t been thrilled with what is generally referred to as “high fantasy” these days. The last major fantasy series I read was GAME OF THRONES and I still haven’t read the 5th installment. So imagine my surprise when I heard amazing things about this new book. I picked it up as soon as I was able to get my grubby paws on a copy (the book stores here SUCK for having a good selection and ordering things is a bigger pain in the ass — yes, you’ll notice that this is a theme in all of these reviews, I’m usually unable to get copies of the books I want, thankfully I now have an eReader, which is a whole other story.)
I wasn’t entirely sure what I was getting into by taking yet another ‘risk’ on a new author I’d never heard of before, but I dove in anyway.
THRONE OF THE CRESCENT MOON is set in a stunning, richly described world unlike any I’ve ever visited in any book in recent memory. One of the main things that struck me was that it was a Middle Eastern setting, like Aladdin. This was something I was thrilled to see! I’ve been pretty tired of the white guys doing white guy things in medieval Europe style places that seems to dominate high fantasy these days. (I’m looking at you, GoT.) To have a story set in the desert, in a city called Dhamasawaat (that always makes me think of Dharmasala, where the Dalai Lama lives, for the record) with a very non-European feel sucked me in instantly.
And the characters! Wow. There is an entire system of government, and several different cultures all woven together and living in harmony in a complex society rarely seen and so thoroughly explained in a debut of a series. We have two different Soo mages, a husband and wife from two totally different Soo tribes. We have a Dervish, completely devoted to God. We have a Ghul hunter who walks a fine line between pious devotion to God and his calling to serve and his love affair with the world. And we have the wild girl from a nomadic tribe. They are all unique, wonderful characters and I fell deeply in love with each of them.
The story follows this group of friends on a mission to destroy an evil that is threatening to consume Dhamasawaat. Visions of rivers of blood and death and destruction at the hands of a madman and his demons torment the hunters and they must save the city before the horrible visions can come true.
Beneath the adventure and the fighting is a tale of love, friendship and the bonds that hold these people together. It’s a tale of honour, of duty and devotion, not only to one’s calling or one’s beliefs, but to one’s friends.
Saladin Ahmed writes in a brisk manner, his world is so deeply described that I swear I could smell the cardamom tea. I had no trouble envisioning the surroundings but I wasn’t bored to tears. The description is so elegantly woven into the tapestry of the narrative that I didn’t even notice the break in the action to get a better look at the rest of the world.
I eagerly await the next installment. This book, so beautiful and heartwarming, brought me to tears. It was a bittersweet ending that left me both aching and wanting more.
I give this book 5/5 stars and plan to revisit this story as soon as I can.
Have you read it? What did you think? Leave me a comment!