Throne of the Crescent Moon
by Saladin Ahmed
Cover Artist: Jason Chan
Review by Mel Jacob
DAW Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780756407117
Date: 07 February 2012 List Price $24.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Acclaimed poet and short story writer, Saladin Ahmed's debut novel, Throne of the Crescent Moon, has garnered impressive reviews. With an Arabian Nights setting, it follows ghul hunter Dr. Adoulla Makhslood and his assistant and bodyguard, the dervish Raseed bas Raseed, as they fight evil and destroy ghuls. A rigidly righteous man, Raseed often tries the genial Adoulla's patience, but his fighting skills are unparalleled.
The prologue hints at an evil power and a man-jackal threatening rivers of blood in Adoulla's beloved Dhamasawaat the largest city in the kingdom, but without informing the reader who or what they are. We then follow Adoulla and Raseed as they track and destroy a band of ghuls who killed the niece of Adoulla's love, Miri. Then a lion-girl, Zamia Badawi, a shapeshifter whose entire nomadic clan has been destroyed by the same band, saves Adoulla's life when the ghuls attack. The monsters kill and suck the souls from the dead.
Zamia had found on her dead father's knife traces of the master mage's blood and vows vengeance on the ghuls and their master. Adoulla takes the weapon to his friends Litaz and Dawoud to find the trail of the mage. More ghuls and a man-jackal attack Adoulla, Raseed, and severely injure Zamia. However, she wounds the man-jackal, but couldn't complete the kill. Adoulla's home is destroyed in the ensuing fire.
Adoulla seeks the help of his best friends Litzar and Dawoud to cure Zambia's severe injuries. This requires Litaz's potions and healing powers and Dawoud magic to save her from death. Zamia needs time and rest to recover. At first, she can no longer become the lion with the silver claws. She is the only one able to wounds the man-jackal and without her, victory would be in doubt.
Meanwhile, in the city, unhappiness with the Khalif grows as criminals and thugs thrive. A master thief with access to magic spells enthralls the citizens as he pursues a Robin Hood role against the Khalif. Adoulla aids him in a brief encounter to the displeasure of Raseed who supports the Khalif's authority.
Locating and eliminating the evil mage and his creatures becomes Adoulla's sole objective despite knowing he might not survive such a battle. He must contend with Raseed's confused loyalty, Zamia's weakness from her injuries, and a powerful evil mage.
An exciting climax finishes the novel, but as Adoulla, Raseed, Zamia, and Litaz with Dawoud go their separate paths, readers may hope to see at least some of them in future novels. Almed introduced the setting for the Crescent Moon Kingdoms in "Where Virtue Lives" and "Judgment of Swords and Souls". Daw has signed a three book contract with Ahmed for his debut novels and others to follow so look for next one in the Crescent Moon Kingdom series probably in early 2013.
Various fantasy authors such as Darren Shan, Tanith Lee, Elizabeth Bear, and Stephen Goldin have used similar settings for their fantasies. Romance writers also use Arabian/Middle Eastern settings and djinns in their novels. However, few Americans with Middle Eastern backgrounds have fantasy novels issued by traditional publishers although Apex has featured some short stories by authors from the Middle East in anthologies.