four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
58-May-June-2012
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0

740862.pngScience fiction and fantasy writer Saladin Ahmed has been nominated for the Nebula and the John W. Campbell Awards, and his short stories have appeared in Strange Horizons and Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show. Throne of the Crescent Moon is his first novel.

The Story: Overweight and aging wizard Doctor Adoulla Makhslood has tired of his lifelong role as "the last real ghul hunter in the great city of Dhamsawaat" and is looking forward to retirement—and maybe a second chance at love. However, a series of vicious supernatural attacks sends him once more into battle against evil magic, joined by his teenaged assistant, the monkish swordsman, Raseed bas Raseed, and Zamia Badawi, a beautiful but vengeful were-lion whose desert tribe was decimated by demons larger and more powerful than any the Doctor has encountered before. But something more terrible than ghuls awaits them beyond the city walls—an ancient evil that threatens to engulf the entire kingdom.
DAW Hardcover. 288 pages. $24.95. ISBN: 9780756407117

Io9.com 4.5 of 5 Stars
"As a kid I loved watching Ray Harryhausen classics like The 7th Voyage of Sinbad and Jason and the Argonauts, with their fighting skeletons and stop-motion monsters—and reading Ahmed’s novel gave me that same sense of swashbuckling mythos mania. What really makes this book shine, however, are the characters and utterly riveting worldbuilding. By the end, you might even find yourself a little choked up after the dust settles." Annalee Newitz

SFFWorld.com 4.5 of 5 Stars
"Saladin Ahmed breathes vitality and life into the sword and sorcery sub genre with Throne of the Crescent Moon, his debut novel and the first of the Crescent Moon Kingdoms saga. … I give Throne of the Crescent Moon the highest recommendation—a familiar framework with fresh ingredients mixed by a bold new voice makes for a most stand-out debut novel." Rob H. Bedford

Seattle Post-Intelligencer 4 of 5 Stars
"In Throne of the Crescent Moon Ahmed does a wonderful job of not only spinning a fascinating story that will hold a reader’s attention from beginning to end, but of bringing an environment most of his audience won’t be familiar with to life. … However, don’t read this book because it’s different. Read it because it's well written and as good as most other fantasy titles out there." Richard Marcus

SF Signal 4 of 5 Stars
"For a slim volume, the worldbuilding was a bit sparse for my taste, but the reader is nevertheless given enough to understand and propel herself through the story. … If you have the slightest interest in the sword and sorcery genre, you owe it to yourself to get lost in the world of Dhamsawaat." Paul Weimer

Strange Horizons 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Especially in the first few chapters, it’s clear that Ahmed is still finding his voice, still feeling his way into the structure of a novel. The pacing and tension remain uneven, and only gradually do isolated incidents begin to acquire coherence in the larger narrative." Liz Bourke

Critical Summary

This "tightly packed sword and sorcery adventure" heralds "a new voice in fantasy" (SFFWorld.com). While the Middle East may be an unusual setting for such a story, Ahmed breathes new life into the genre with his stunning sense of place and compelling, multidimensional characters. Resembling ancient Baghdad or Cairo, Dhamsawaat—"one of the most evocatively described cities I’ve encountered," hailed SF Signal— sparkles with vitality and color, animated by an abundance of clever and convincing details. Some critics diverged in their opinions of Ahmed’s pacing and world-building skills but discounted them as minor first-novel glitches. Throne of the Crescent Moon, the first installment in a planned trilogy, just may be "the best fantasy swashbuckler of the year so far" (io9.com).