I remember the first time I read the The Hobbit. I was young. I didn’t understand much of it. Despite that, it managed to take me into another world that at one point I essentially ripped off in a terrible work of proto-fiction that thankfully has been lost to the annals of time. The younger I was, the easier it was to get lost in worlds in that manner. The older I got, I kept chasing that dragon, as it were, but something got lost along the way. Currently, I find it much easier to lose immersion in something, and I’m happy to say that Throne of the Crescent Moon was the first book in a while that gave me that same feeling that I had back when I first read J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel all those years ago.
The book is the first book of The Crescent Moon Kingdoms series, but it’s one-hundred percent self-contained. The Crescent Moon Kingdoms is an Arabian fantasy, which probably helped with me staying immersed. It didn’t feel like I was treading the same old tired tropes despite one of the main characters, Doctor Abdoulla Makhslood, being what amounted to the wizened old wizard. The story felt fresh. It was lively. I found myself lost in the bustling city of Dhamsawaat.
Abdoulla felt fully fledged from the introduction to him drinking at his favorite tea shop to his turbulent relationship with the Madame of a brothel. Saladin Ahmed excellently caused me to care about each of the point of view characters he introduced- be it Abdoulla’s dervish assistant with superhuman capabilities or his lifelong friends and fellow (retired) ghul hunters. The characters aren’t the only reason to read through Throne of the Crescent Moon.
Ahmed does an excellent job of making the world real as well. For the most part, the narrative is limited to the city of Dhamsawaat. Abdoulla and Raseed, his aforementioned dervish assistant, make a brief foray out of the city, but a majority of the story takes place within. The living conditions of the different parts of the city aren’t overly elaborated on, but there are enough hints and references that you can paint a picture of it in your head. My only major disappointment with the story being so focused on Dhamsawaat was the lack of a map for the city accompanying the book.
If you’ve read my other book reviews, you’ve probably noticed that I’ve complained about pacing fairly often. This was something that I felt the book handled most adeptly. Events unfold throughout the book that manage to ratchet up the threat level in steady doses while keeping the overall story moving. These threat level increases also grow organically and work with the flow of the story.
All of this being taken into account, I’d wholly recommend Throne of the Crescent Moon to anyone who is looking for a break from the tedium of faux medieval European fantasy worlds. It’s fresh. It’s new. It’s a good read. Hell. Pick it up even if you’re not looking for a break from the norm.