Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed – Book Review

Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed is a different and refreshing take on fantasy that replaces European castles and elves with Middle Eastern palaces and people born with the ability to transform into magical beasts.


The story centers around Doctor Adoulla Makhslood, a hunter of a magical creature called ghuls which are summoned from the hearts of evil men. He’s fat, weary, and wants to settle down and shirk his Ghul hunter responsibilities. Unfortunately, his assistant Raseed is a young and pious blue dervish (a.k.a. swordsman) who wants to fight and is ready to hunt ghuls until the end of his days.


Something is afoot in the city of Dhamsawatt, Adoulla’s home. Someone or something is attempting to take control of the throne of the crescent moon in order to unleash a ghul army that will destroy the city.


Sounds like an interesting concept doesn’t it? Unfortunately, the book doesn’t live up to its promise.


The prose isn’t terrible, it’s actually quite enjoyable to read and is well done. The problem is that Throne of the Crescent Moon is extremely repetitive and is more interested in its setting than the plot of an upcoming ancient evil apocalypse. Also, I had a tough time relating to the characters and found myself not necessarily bored but wishing for something more interesting to happen.


When I say that Throne of the Crescent Moon is repetitive, it is literally repetitive. Every character always has to say “God’s peace,” and they always have to quote holy scripture and always have to say, “God willing,” oh man it’s so annoying to read! I understand that it’s part of the culture the author established and understand that this is a new setting in a land I’m unfamiliar with, but to constantly repeat sayings is extremely distracting.


Then we’ve got the characters, oh the characters. Though it was nice not to have your typical cast of elves and mages, the crop we’re given is too jaded to be any fun to read. All of them except for Raseed and Zamia (who are the youngest of the group) are tired and wanting to settle down. They don’t care about the ghul-maggeddon coming their way, they just want to live a normal life without fighting.


And that’s . . . not very interesting.


The pacing is painfully slow and a whole lot of nothing happens. You get to learn a lot about the city of Dhamsawatt, the people who live there, life in the city, but in terms of actual plot? There’s none to be had. Which is a shame because there’s a lot of interesting concepts here that could have made this into a memorable read.


For instance, the ghuls are created by men who are sort of like necromancers. They can be made of water, corpses, sand, and depending on the ghul will change how they bleed. So if a sand ghul is cut, scorpions and beetles will pour out of the wound. Also, the teenage girl Zamia can transform into a magical lion and pounce on enemies.


It’s such a shame that these moments rarely happen in the book. There is zero sense of urgency and a huge chunk of the book is spent with the characters waiting for Zamia to heal from injuries or walking around town trying to recruit help. Not exactly the most riveting thing to focus on.


Even so, Throne of the Crescent Moon has charm and flavor that is not often encountered in fantasy novels. I wish there could have been a bit more action or conflict and a whole lot less repetition of religious phrases. I was debating whether I can recommend reading this book and ultimately it comes down to I don’t know. I didn’t hate it but I certainly didn’t love it either.


If you think you can stomach world building and character building over any sense of plot or urgency and want something different in fantasy, then by all means give this a shot. However, if you’re like me and need a bit more drama in your books, then this is not the book for you.


Three stars.

Wilmar Luna