Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Throne of the Crescent Moon Book Review

by the Wanderer

Author: Saladin Ahmed
Publisher: DAW Books
Genre: Sword and Sorcery
Series: Crescent Moon Kingdoms Book One
Pages: 274

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Throne of the Crescent Moon is a sword and sorcery fantasy novel with a heavy Middle Eastern flavor.  This short book, at least by the fantasy genre’s standards, is set within a city that is in political turmoil, which causes the powers to be to miss a new growing threat of evil that is planning to destroy the city.

Despite having a convoluted good vs. evil back drop, Crescent Moon manages to bring a variety of refreshing ideas to the genre.  The story is anchored by an odd coupled power trio who’s different ideologies allow for different philosophical discussions to take place. The world and cultures allow for a number of predominately Eastern ideas to make their way into the story, too.  The book is mostly enjoyable despite the predictability found in most of the plot and some character development flaws.

Throne of the Crescent Moon is a fast paced quick read.  There are many sequences of action, and a well balanced magic system which creates some exciting battles and action sequences.  With a lot of potential, this book offers a fairly bright future for later installments.

In the city of Dhamsawaat political tension is reaching a boiling point.  The city being ruled by the Khalif has been cruelly taxed and overburdened.  The middle and lower classes struggle greatly, while the upper classes and palace manages to get richer and richer.  Opposing the Khalif is the man called the Falcon Prince.  This Robin Hood like figure and frequently robs the rich and distributes their wealth to the poor, while gathering supporters who oppose the Khalif.

That is the backdrop that the three main characters of the story find themselves in.  Doctor Adoulla Makhslood is a lazy cynic and the last living Ghul hunter in Dhamsawaat (Ghul’s are monsters created from magic). He is accompanied by his devoutly religious assistant Raseed bas Raseed, and the displaced tribeswoman Zamia Badawi.  These three characters find themselves in a conflict with a very powerful Ghul maker who plans on capitalizing on the unrest in the city so that he can destroy the world.

Doctor Adoulla Makhslood is not your typical hero.  Mahkslood is an old man who dreams of retirement.  He is lazy, he is cynical, and he likes to make fart jokes.  Mahkslood is pragmatic and although he supports God and other traditional elements in the Dhamsawaat culture, the Doctor will defy tradition if it’s pragmatic to whatever cause he is fighting for.  Of the three main characters I found the Doctor to be the easiest character to empathize with, and he also functions as a great source of comic relief, which helps balance the darker elements of the story.

His near polar opposite is his assistant Raseed bas Raseed.  Raseed is basically a religious zealot in training. He is religious to a fault, but unlike the doctor he is an optimist.  The opposing view points between Raseed and Adoulla drives a lot of their character development, while allowing philosophical and differing world viewpoints to be expressed.  Raseed is frequently at odds with the doctor over his potential to become close minded because of his religious beliefs, which is a great debate and conflict that occurs frequently: choosing to maintain your faith while not closing your mind to differing ideas.

Zamia Badawi unintentionally helps Raseed in this department.  She is a duty entrenched woman who’s loyalty revolves around helping the legacy of her tribe survive.  Duty to differing, but equally worthy causes, allows Raseed and Zamia to believably connect with one another.  Zamia is presented with a good back-story, but she could benefit from some independence, which is never really granted to her in this story.  This may be just a function of the first novel, as there is great open door potential for Zamia to grow independently as a character in future books.

These three characters make a great centerpiece for this story. They are like an odd-ball Harry, Ron, and Hermione pairing.  They bring a much broader set of life and cultural experiences to the table, and the development and potential future development for these characters is capacious.

The plot is entertaining, but at times suffers from convenience and predictability.  A character is missing a piece of a puzzle… the next chapter they manage to randomly run into the person with the missing puzzle piece.  This is the problem with an under 300 page fantasy book, the author is forced to move a long a fairly realistic and believable story in a less than realistic way at certain points.  The ending is not unique, but rather it’s a fairly refreshing take on an ending that’s been done before, and it works to create a satisfying conclusion.

The magic system is interesting.  Never does the magic in the story make the heroes feel over-powering or dominate, and that’s a great thing.  The reader will feel the heroes can stomp anyone individually, but the odds can be turned against them quickly.  The rules for this magic system are never clearly laid out.  What readers do know is that magic is invoked by reciting lines of scripture…which I’m not sure if that’s supposed to be hilarious or serious.
The Doctor blows Ghuls to hell with incantations such as:
“God is the mercy that kills cruelty.”
“God is the hope of the hopeless.”
I personally found this funny, but at the same time it never took away the element of danger.  Whatever the intention, tying scripture into magic ultimately makes sense, but for some people this might be an issue for some religious readers.

Religion plays an important part in the story.  Although the religion in The Crescent Moon Kingdoms is variably different from the major religions of Earth; they are very similar in the fact that they are monotheistic and they call God, God.  Since most fantasy stories focus on more mythological based religious settings, this is a very refreshing and close-to-home take on rendition of religion for the fantasy genre.

Throne of the Crescent Moon is Saladin Ahmed’s debut novel.  A lot of potential for a new type of sword and sorcery fantasy novelist can be found in this book.  Fast paced, invigorating action, a likeable cast of main characters, and a fantasy book that can actually be finished in a reasonable amount of time are the high points of Saldin’s story.

Score: 8.6

1 comment:

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