Thursday, 22 March 2012

‘Throne of the Crescent Moon’ – Saladin Ahmed (DAW)

I’ll admit that I’m just as much a victim of a glowing review as much as the next man… If enough people say that they like a particular book then my ears perk up and I’m checking it out sooner rather than later. That was very much the case with Saladin Ahmed’s ‘Throne of the Crescent Moon’, a fairly recent release that has had an awful lot of good stuff said about it already.

It’s not just that though. With things being how they’ve been just recently I’ve found that I’ve been actively searching out ‘fun’ reads. Not ‘comfort reads’ though and ‘fun’ doesn’t have to equal ‘light’ either. I’m happy to be stretched a little but, right now, enjoyment counts for one hell of a lot more. Again, ‘Throne of the Crescent Moon’ looked like it could do the business based on what I’d heard and read. ‘Caine’s Law’ was put to one side then (brilliant but heavy going, more on that another time) and I’ve spent the last few days reading ‘Throne’ instead. It took me a little longer to finish than I expected (paid work has ceased but there’s plenty to do around the house…) but that was ok as it meant that I got to enjoy the book for a little while longer.
It may only be March but I’ve already got one eye on a list of ‘Top Reads in 2012’, ‘Throne of the Crescent Moon’ will be on that list for certain.

The great city of Dhamsawaat is about to explode as the Khalif and his corrupt City Watch seek to put down the growing rebellion headed by the mysterious ‘Falcon Prince’. Both men want to rule the city and who’s to say that their reasons aren’t so very different…? Something else is going on though, something that could have far graver consequences for the city of Dhamsawaat and the wider world.
A spate of supernatural murders are bought to the attention of Doctor Adoulla Makhslood, "The last real ghul hunter in the great city of Dhamsawaat," a man who much rather retire in peace but cannot resist his calling. Aided by his assistant Raseed bas Raseed (a Dervish of great piety but troubled in spirit) and Zama Badawi (wielder of the Lion Shape and the main cause of unrest in Raseed’s soul) Adoulla must track down this threat and destroy it before the very city of Dhamsawaat is drowned in the blood of its people.

Weighing in at a rather slender two hundred and seventy four pages, ‘Throne of the Crescent Moon’ looks (at first glance) like a book that you could whip through in an afternoon. At least that’s what I thought when I first picked it up. Odd jobs around the house to one side, ‘Throne of the Crescent Moon’ has to be the reason why the phrase ‘deceptively small’ was first coined. There is an awful lot more than you would think crammed into those pages and all of it is very good indeed. No filler here, Saladin Ahmed has written a lean and purposeful book that grabbed me by the scruff of the neck and wouldn’t put me down until the end.

Not that I wanted to stop reading anyway. How could I when the lead character is an irascible rogue such as Doctor Adoulla Makhslood? Adoulla is a fascinating character in his own right with Ahmed giving us an insight into a man entering his twilight years and regretting the sacrifices he has been forced to make for his calling. That calling is more important than ever though as Adoulla not only believes that he is the last true member of his order but knows full well what will happen if he turns his back on the darkness of the world. Ahmed shows us that those dangers are out there and just what they are capable of. I really felt for Adoulla but also found myself admiring a man who is most definitely a hero.

When you add Raseed into the mix you get the classic ‘buddy cop’ scenario with two very different people working together when they wouldn’t normally. The ensuing relationship is fraught with sniping little remarks (mostly from Adoualla) that made me laugh but did have me also wondering just how much Raseed was a foil for the Doctor as well as a character in his own right. That’s not to say that Raseed doesn’t have an equal amount of attention paid to him; I guess that Ahmed’s Adoulla is so much larger than life that he just overshadows everyone else that he shares a page with. Brilliant characterisation but it does backfire a little bit in that respect.
What I came away with though was a real sense of mutual respect and admiration between Adoulla and Raseed that translates superbly onto the page. The duo aren’t just fighting for their city, they are fighting so that their friendship can continue, I love that. There’s a real sense of depth to the ensuing struggle between good and evil that you don’t really find in many other books.

The story itself raises the stakes right from the start with a graphic look at just how evil the villains of the piece really are. These are harrowing scenes that hook the reader right from the start.
As things continue, the plot becomes rather straightforward with a clear line drawn between good and evil. There are a few twists and turns but nothing that really deflects proceedings away from the inevitable confrontation at the end. Ahmed has already shown us just what is at stake and proceeds to rescue things further with some literally awesome scenes of magic and combat against some well realised monstrous creations. The pages turn all too easily in a book that is both fast paced and smooth.
Where Ahmed really excels though is in the creation of Dhamsawaat itself; a bustling city that not only lives and breathes on the page but masks the straightforwardness of the plot with smells of sand and mint tea, the cries of the city guard and the haggling of back street magicians. Even though the book ended, I still wanted to hang around and sample a little more of what Dhamsawaat has to offer. I’m hoping that I’ll have the chance to do so again very soon.

‘Throne of the Crescent Moon’ is nothing short of essential reading for fans of ‘Swords & Sorcery’ and fans of fantasy in general, any hype is well deserved. Highly recommended by me, give it a go now.

Nine and a Half out of Ten


Unknown said...

Wow, glowing praise indeed. I was on the fence about giving this one a read, but you may have just swayed me to drop it on the right side of the bookshelf.

Nibbles said...

Wow! sold :)

Joshua Lowe said...

I refuse to buy hardcovers because they annoy me, so I've been waiting for this to be released in paperback where I can buy it!

Elfy said...

Really pleased to read another good review for Throne as my copy arrived the other day and it's next cab off the rank to be read.