Monday, February 23, 2015


Rating: 4/5 -  A satisfying read that’s worth every word.  

Title: Throne of the Crescent Moon

Author: Saladin Ahmed

Format: trade paperback


Genre: fantasy

Publisher: Orion Publishing Group 

Landed in my hands:
purchased myself


The Crescent Moon Kingdoms is at boiling point. A struggle between the iron-fisted Khalif and the mysterious Falcon Prince is reaching its climax. In the midst of this brewing rebellion, a series of brutal supernatural murders strikes at the heart of the Kingdoms.

Doctor Adoulla Makhslood, three score and more years old, has grown weary of hunting monsters and saving lives. But when and old flame’s family is murdered, Adoulla is drawn back to the hunter’s path. Raseed bas Raseed, a hidebound holy warrior, is eager to deliver God’s justice. Zamia Badawi has been gifted with the near-mythical power of the Lion-Shape, but lives only to avenge her father’s death. Until she meets Raseed.

When they learn that the murders and the brewing revolutions are connected, the companions must race against time to save the life of a vicious despot. In so doing they discover a plot for the Throne of the Crescent Moon that threatens to turn the city, and the world itself, into a blood-soaked ruin.


To be completely honest, before Saladin Ahmed had been announced as the JordanCon 2015 Author Guest of Honour, I hadn’t heard of him. Of course, I’m all for supporting our beloved JCon guests, so I had to pick up his book.

And I was pleasantly surprised.

I believe I’ve said before that I’ve struggled lately with reading heroic fantasy. It was once my go to genre; my staple. And because of that I’ve suffered burnout: everything reads as categorical tropes... tired, old, redundant. Predictable.

Hence my surprise with this, the first installment of The Crescent Moon Kingdoms series (trilogy?).

Throne of the Crescent Moon has a welcome twist. I don’t think it’s ever occurred to me how much of fantasy is entrenched in Western culture—a mesh of altered European medieval history and mythical tropes. So to read a novel where the action takes place in a skewed middle-eastern setting was, well, refreshing. And Ahmed’s narrative is finely descriptive—the details are revealed naturally, and don’t seem forced—I found myself easily transported to the marketplace setting that is Adoulla’s common stomping ground (a thankfully exotic place to visit, when one is stuck in the middle of Canadian winter).

But Ahmed doesn’t stop there. He’s subverted the genre further; his central characters aren’t nobility—or even nobility in disguise. His central characters aren’t a cast of young kids who need to come of age during their struggles—nope, in fact the primary character is a senior, one who’d happily retire if the world let him, but that doesn’t seem feasible anytime soon. A senior and his friends (contemporary in age, even—more old people! And look, they’re not useless to society, as the media’s brush occasionally paints them!), as well as his protégé. Oh, and a badass independent young woman they pick up along the way.

In fact, this book has quite a nice feminist spin. A girl is uncharacteristically given an honour historically reserved for males. Two older women are respected professionals in the community—one educated with skills integral to the group, and the other a business entrepreneur with powerful connections. Characters of various ages are respected for their skills, and the knowledge they bring to the table.

(Equality makes for a good read. Go figure.)

Without setting off my spoiler alarm, there was a particular dynamic between two characters that I found to be rather predictable, but I suppose we can't have everything be a surprise... and a small area of predictability is a small price in my mind.

(Especially considering there's a rather large shudder-worthy concept that made my skin crawl, it was so unanticipated and supremely... creeptastic. All I can do is shudder inwardly at the thought.)

I like subversion. I like not anticipating the direction of a narrative. I like seeing women being respected, taking charge, and kicking butt.

Which is all to say I’ll be waiting for the next installment, and looking forward to meeting Ahmed come April. And saying thank you.

Because old people and women have value, so thanks for noticing.

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