Adoulla Makhslood is the last real ghul hunter in the city of Dhamsawaat. All he wants is to retire, but protecting the city is a job that one cannot retire from. The threat is worse than ever, and Adoulla and his partner Raseed, a god-fearing young warrior, have their hands full. These two ghul hunters, plus a young girl who has lost her Bedouin-like tribe and has the ability to turn into a lion, and Adoulla’s friends, are soon swept up with preventing a devious plot to take the throne from its rightful heir.
I’m going to admit something completely, 100% shallow; I became interested in Saladin Ahmed because of his name. The Saladin who fought against the crusaders in the Middle Ages has long been one of the people in history who fascinates me, and so this author’s name stuck in my head far easier than others had been able to. I listened to a couple of his stories which were available for free online, enjoyed them, and pre-ordered this book. As you may be expecting, I was rewarded.
Far from the typical pseudo-European fantasies (which I’m not disparaging, as I love them very much), this one is set in the middle of a desert, in a pseudo-Middle East, although still at the same time period as most fantasies. This makes the book feel very distinctive immediately; and so does the fact that the main hero is over 60, approaching retirement, but still spry and brave, determined to fight. He is balanced out nicely by his younger partner, Raseed, who is so religious that it stifles his emotional life. Together, they make a formidable team, but potentially not formidable enough for the enemy they face.
Despite the very short length of the book for a fantasy novel, each character is distinctive and well-drawn, and reading about them and their world is a pleasure. The plot is not particularly complex but it does draw the reader in, as it is certainly life-threatening and suspenseful for the characters, and they are the stars of the show here. Raseed wrestling with his religion and his desires, Zamia’s quest to avenge her tribe, Adoulla’s longing for a rest and for the love of his life, and almost all of the characters’ love for their city and homeland – this is what makes the novel a worthy read.
An adventure fantasy novel that seems to delight in turning some of the conventions of the genre on their heads, Throne of the Crescent Moon is a worthwhile read, and Saladin Ahmed is an author to watch for a lot more than his name.