02 July 2013

Book review: Throne of the Crescent Moon

Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed

Adoulla is the last of the ghul hunters. Raseed is his partner, a highly religious dervish who is keen with his sword. Ramia is a nomad girl who is also a lion. They band together to fight a truly evil spirit, Mouw Awa, and the evil sorcerer who raised him and many ghuls. There is a lazy/corrupt monarch and a prince of thieves who fights against him.

I wasn't terribly impressed with this book, actually. I came close to giving up in chapter 3 because I was bored. It's got all the plot tokens of generic epic fantasy, except instead of pseudo-northern-Europe it's set in a pseudo-Muslim sultanate. Which was interesting and does set it apart from all the other generic epic fantasy, but the tropes. Not my thing at all.

(That isn't to say that tropes are bad. They exist for a reason: people like them. Some are overused in general. Everyone has their own particular set of tropes that appeal to them. Mine doesn't overlap with the set in this book very much, if at all.)

On a sentence by sentence level, the writing wasn't anything special, either. It wasn't stab-my-eyes-out-with-a-spork bad, and I wasn't ranting about clunky sentences or that sort of thing while I read it, but it just didn't sing out to me. If that makes sense.

A lot of people enjoyed this book. I read the whole thing, but out of some sense of obligation rather than joy. I will say that I was curious to find out who Mouw Awa's friend was and who was creating all the ghuls (and I had a couple theories that were shown to be wrong). So from the perspective of "was I interested in finding out how the plot wraps up?", yes, it succeeded on that count, even if I wasn't invested in the characters that much.

Adoulla was interesting and humorous, if extremely vulgar, in the "farts at you to express his opinion of your stupidity" sense." Raseed was ... he was extremely annoying. Religious extremists are not a character archetype I enjoy reading about, even if his character arc is "well maybe my extremism isn't actually a good thing..." Ramia I actually liked somewhat. I could identify a bit with her self-perceived failure to live up to the standards set for her. I know that feel, girl.

On the whole, I thought this was an average epic fantasy novel, perhaps slightly above average (I am not generally an epic fantasy reader, so I don't have much basis for comparison). I may have had raised expectations, because I'd read many generally positive reviews. Give it a shot, anyway, and try to make it to at least chapter 5 or 6 before giving up.


Anonymous said...

I have to admit, the more I think about this book the less I like it. I loved the idea - it's great to see fantasies that aren't just "fake medieval Europe" and I also enjoy protagonists that aren't wide-eyed teenagers - but I just couldn't get into the characters at all.

I felt like most characters went past "familiar trope" into "cardboard cutout" territory. The older alchemist couple were the most interesting, but they weren't enough to carry the story for me.
People conveniently knew things or had things other characters needed. Ancient texts were just hanging around with information. How the hell did [guy who learned incorrect ritual information but took advantage of correct information] even learn it? How does magic work other than happening to solve or not solve problems for the main characters as the plot requires?

The "love" story was particularly frustrating; I felt like the moment it was hinted at, I was able to predict the entire arc. I also have no patience for someone being 100% sure they're in love with someone they've known all of a day who's been unconscious most of the time! That entire subplot hurt the book a lot, I think.

CD Covington said...

I liked the older alchemist couple, too, and I agree it's nice to have a set of protagonists that aren't teenagers.

But, yeah, there were a lot of convenient coincidences there. It felt a lot like a D&D campaign.