Book Review: Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed
Reading Time: about 6 hours
For a quick recap of the plot, see Neth Space’s review here. Neth does a really good job in summarizing the plot, something I don’t feel the need to do here. Instead, I’ll focus on the positive and negative impressions resulting from my reading experience.
One thing I admire about this book is the choice to center the story around an older man, Adoulla. It certainly is refreshing to pick up a book and not read another coming of age story. This continues with Ahmed’s choice to provide two supporting characters that are also older. For me, this was the highlight of the book, and what gives it the most depth. These people have seen much and fought much. They are tired, poor, ready to retire, and questioning whether their accomplishments, their life, has made a difference. Because, you see, that’s what life is about, isn’t it? What kind of impact or contribution have you made to society? Have you made a difference? Did you make the right choices? What is your legacy? Will you be remembered (in a positive way) when you are gone? It’s the reason some authors write books, maybe even why some of us blog: to exert an influence on the world, to make a difference, to leave a legacy. Ahmed is to be commended for such an approach. Yes, there are a couple of young characters, but in reality 3 of the 5 main characters are older and express these sentiments.
Another positive is the culture and setting. Much like Howard Andrew Jones and The Desert of Souls, Ahmed’s environment and the city of Dhamsawaat are fully realized and believable. The culture Ahmed has created, from religious connotations, economics, class status, and leisure are extremely well done. It truly feels like we have been immersed in a real place, where every socio-economic aspect rings with authenticity. I enjoyed the fact that the story did not take place in a “medieval Europe” setting. Ahmed is very descriptive of the environment, and earns high marks from me for it.
As for the villains, Ahmed has done a great job on the ghuls (in their various aspects) and the manjackal is also well done. However, the main villain, the man behind all of the problems, is really nothing special. Other than the ability to create ghuls, his power is nothing more than illusion. I found this to be a little underwhelming, especially at the finale.
Unfortunately for me, I had some glaring issues with this book. My main problem is the writing style. Despite claims on the cover of the book that describe it as well-written, I disagree. There’s nothing wrong with Ahmed’s descriptive abilities; rather, I found the book to have a poor, choppy flow, at times even clumsy, causing the story to suffer severely from uneven pacing. This is especially noticeable when we get glimpses into what the characters are thinking and feeling. In addition, the author over-relies on the use of exclamation marks…they’re everywhere. I don’t think you can go two pages without finding one, and at times I think I counted nine or ten of them on a page. That probably doesn’t bother most people, but it became extremely annoying to me.
Finally, the love interest between Raseed and Zamia feels unnatural and forced, as if it were tacked on. Other than a physical attraction and an admiration for their combat skills, I could not see what drew them to love each other, even consider marriage…Ahmed did not do a good enough job in justifying their feelings for each other.
As I stated in my review of Tin Swift, I was reading that book at work, while I read Throne of the Crescent Moon at home. Though I started Throne of the Crescent Moon first, and it is shorter in length, I finished Tin Swift first because I was so much more entertained by it, the pages just flew by and I couldn’t put it down. Whenever I was reading Throne of the Crescent Moon, I kept thinking “I’d rather be reading Tin Swift.” I’m not making a direct comparison between the books; rather, it’s more of an indictment on the struggles I had to get through to finish Throne of the Crescent Moon…this was a book that I could and did put down. Sometimes, I would only read a page or two before closing it, and that really shouldn’t be the case, because I love Swords-and-Sorcery.
In conclusion, the story wasn’t terrible – in fact, it has many positive aspects. I just didn’t enjoy it as much as other readers did. Because of this, I will neither recommend nor discourage others from reading it. However, at this time I’m leaning towards avoiding the sequel.