Being a review of sorts of a debut novel, Saladin Ahmed's Throne of the Crescent Moon (Daw, February 7 2012)
As this is one of the other determinedly non-Western fantasies coming out this year, of course I had a vested interest in it.
This promising debut offers a glimpse of a dusty and wonderful fantasy city through the eyes of three engaging, unconventional protagonists.What I found particularly interesting about this book is that, although the setting leaves Fantasy-Europe behind to delve deep into Fantasy-Arabia--a welcome change--this book is structurally one of the most traditional adventure fantasies I have read in some time.
There is an old man, a ghul-hunter who has long since learned to take a pragmatic--perhaps even cynical--approach to life. His apprentice (and foil) is a passionate young ascetic, a dervish who wishes to learn the art of monster hunting. They are goaded into action by a shapeshifting warrior girl on a quest for revenge for her murdered family, killed by monstrous ghuls.
Deriving his inspiration from The Arabian Nights, Ahmed sends his three protagonists on an adventure that brings them into contention with gloating bandit princes, self-absorbed royalty, wisecracking alchemists, and a whole panoply of others. It's fast-paced and good fun, though the structure wobbles a bit here and there (the ending seems slightly arbitrary), and I could have wished the villains had a bit more complexity throughout.
However, in terms of a wonderfully sketched-out fantasy world, a skittery adventure, and a joyous romp, this is not bad a-tall. The city and the culture breathe; the smells and tastes are lovingly evoked until the pungency of Ahmed's world saturates the reader's imagination.
The absolute truest thing I can say about this book is that it will make you awfully hungry.