“Throne of the Crescent Moon” features a cast of characters that are distinctly individual in their respective struggles, but at the same time crafts an adventure that once it hits the ground running, it has beautifully woven moments to showcase. I have a weakness for reading fantasy that’s crafted in an Arabian Nights measure of storytelling, so the world that Ahmed creates with the realm of Dhamsawaat and the Crescent Moon kingdom drew me in for its premise.
There are multiple characters in this particular story, but I’m going to focus on Doctor Adoullah Makhslood because he’s the primary focal point this novel jumps from. The big bellied, sometimes humorous doctor finds himself flung back into a painful past when his former lover’s family is murdered and he takes the charge of finding the culprit behind the matter. While noted as the last ghul hunter, he shows an interesting balance of reluctance and determination taking on the task. A series of brutal slaughters have occurred around the area and Adoullah finds they were committed by no ordinary means. It was refreshing to me how much focus Adoullah had in the novel – he’s an elder man with quite a handful of flaws, but manages to be charming and enjoyable to watch in his interactions with others. The fact that he loves his books so much and how much he was ranting and raving at one point looking for one such book had me grinning from ear to ear.
Joining forces with a number of interesting characters, including the brave, but sometimes meek apprentice Raseed, and the shapeshifting, brash youth of Zamia, Adoullah searches for the truth surrounding the Crescent Moon kingdom. If there’s something that I can say about what the book does well, the setting and the character focus of the book are nice. In some parts it has an easy, more quiet focus on the character development, and others where it displays some nice confrontations of magic and shapeshifting conflict. It is also a fairly quick read in the realm of fantasy books with some well written action scenes. If I’m being more critical, there were times when I thought some of the creatures and magic system could’ve had more fleshing out just to give it a more immersible feel. While I was intrigued by some of the villainous characterizations (Mouw Awa’s voice was very distinct and believable, for example), I didn’t gain a complete handle on their motivations and traits as much as the primary characters. The romance was believable, but not necessarily a central focus of the work, and that was fine with me. If anything, I felt more for Adoullah’s relationship with his old flame and their respective working together/push-pull dynamic. Raseed and Zamia’s relationship was interesting, and plausible considering the awkward, but well-established ties between them, but I’ll admit their characters didn’t quite have the development and focus that Adoullah’s relationship seemed to have. Both Raseed and Zamia also have their respective flaws distinct to their youth and characterizations, but I’ll admit it wasn’t as three-dimensional as Adoullah’s construction had throughout the work, and his eye was the one I kept coming back to. I probably would’ve liked to see a little more of Raseed than the novel provided in spurts because I liked his character, while Zamia came across as a bit less likable for me, but still remained a sympathetic character because of her struggles. Adoullah’s former flame was awesome, and I loved her characterization.
I thought the action scenes toward the ending were nice and wrapped up well considering the primary trio of characters, but I’ll admit it didn’t tie up as well considering the ongoing development featured in the first 2/3rds of the novel. It’s good, but when I think about it in retrospect, it didn’t provide me with the punch gut emotional resonance that I’d hoped to have like in some moments I saw through the tale. Nonetheless, I’d very much like to follow whatever Saladin Ahmed writes next, including further installations this series. I wouldn’t say that this is a groundbreaking book in its respective realm, but for me it was an enjoyable read for what it had to offer.
Overall score: 3/5