Throne Of The Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed book review: The Doctor will kill you now.
It’s easy to agree with Lies Of Locke Lamora author Scott Lynch when he says that Throne of The Crescent Moon “buoyantly fails to suck”. Another ho-hum, medieval backdrop would have sucked. Prophecies would have sucked. The clichéd boy-hero on a journey of self-discovery would also have sucked. Instead, Saladin Ahmed gives us the rich Arabian city of Dhamsawaat, zombified “ghuls” and a 60-year-old protagonist in a grump.
The 60-year-old in question is Dr Adoulla Makhslood, an ageing ghul-hunter. When he and his dervish assistant Raseed start investigating a savage murder on the outskirts of Dhamsawaat, they get dragged into a dark conspiracy that threatens to destroy the city. It’s a refreshing approach. Making Adoulla the hero is like retooling Star Wars and giving Obi Wan Kenobi the lead. The Dr can still save the world, but he'll need a sit down and a cup of cardamom tea afterwards.
Thankfully, Throne Of The Crescent Moon isn’t just an epic fantasy reskinned with kaftans, camels and scimitars. It’s smartly written, with a cluster of likeable characters that also includes a shapeshifter and a Zorro-esque freedom fighter. Admittedly, there are fewer twists and turns than you might be hoping for, while magic has that convenient smartbomb effect that often rescues the characters from life-threatening situations.
Does it spoil the story? God’s balls, no. Ahmed grabs your attention with a nasty, menacing prologue and doesn’t let go, deftly wrapping up the action in a satisfying, do-or-die finale that leaves plot strands a-dangling for the next instalment. A strong debut.
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