Gollancz, h/b, £20.00
Reviewed by Elloise Hopkins
Doctor Adoulla Makhslood is the last real ghul hunter and is beginning to feel as though he is getting too old for all these adventures. Unfortunately it seems that vicious monsters are on the prowl and they appear to have been crafted by a ruthless and talented killer. Once again Adoulla’s skills are called for and he must face the possibility of death armed with only his white robes and his magic.
Raseed Bas Raseed is a dervish of the holy order apprenticed to Adoulla to grant him more experience of the world, but the ghul hunter’s bad habits appear to be rubbing off on his apprentice and Raseed finds himself questioning his holy vows. Meanwhile in Adoulla’s treasured city, a master thief known as the Falcon Prince is challenging the Khalif. The ghul hunter and his apprentice soon find themselves caught in the middle of the conflict.
Throne of the Crescent Moon is a return to the essence of true storytelling; a transportation to an open fire in a distant land, a master storyteller weaving magics and mysteries over enthralled companions beneath a desert sky. He tells his tale slowly, completely, never breaking that spell. The story echoes with legends gone before and yet at once is new; something not yet experienced but somehow also pleasantly familiar.
The traditional band of unlikely adventurers faced against untold evil is in play here as events unfold in a linear arc, but the characters elevate the story above the average swords and sorcery. They are detailed, they have flaws and foibles, they have life-changing dilemmas, desires and self-imposed restrictions. In other words, they are as real as people on a page can be. The same is true for the setting. Richly infused with elements of Arabian Nights and the Persian Empire, Dhamsawaat feels entirely real, down to the scents and tastes of the city and the dust in the air.
Ahmed truly has a unique voice and there is no doubt that it will be a constant voice within the fantasy landscape from hereon in. The Crescent Moon Kingdoms are surely bursting with many more stories of monsters and alchemy, kingdoms and usurpers, swords and spells, ghul hunters, dervishes and simple folk who take life’s pleasures in good tea and friendship.
Whilst on first glance the book is short for a fantasy novel, it is deceptively short; the amount of detail, legend and conflict contained within its pages is impressive. There is little to criticise and nothing that the reader won’t want more of. A notable debut from a skilled hand and highly recommended for any fantasy fan.