Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Throne of the Crescent Moon, by Saladin Ahmed

I haven't read much non-Eurocentric fantasy, and I've liked this guy's short stories, so I planned on savoring this one: no juggling books and babies! No constant interruptions! I would read this book after the kids went to bed, with a glass of wine! Or maybe while the kids were still awake, if I could escape to the bathtub!

In practice, what happened was that I took the book and the wine to the bathtub or the comfy chair, read three pages, and promptly fell asleep. Newborns, man.

So it took me forever to finish, and when it got to the action at the end, I did wind up juggling book and baby because I couldn't bear to read it only three pages at a time anymore.

It's about a crochety old ghul hunter, Adoulla, on his last and most terrible hunt. (The worldbuilding is based on Islam: magic flows from God, and ghuls are nasty monsters created by followers of the Traitorous Angel.) He's got a young apprentice, Raseed, a holy warrior who is very concerned about his righteousness in the eyes of God. They meet a young girl, Zamia, who's hunting the same ghuls, which massacred her tribe. They go to two of Adoulla's friends, a married couple who had retired from ghul hunting, for help. The five of them remind me of a D&D party (or at least, D&D parties from my very limited D&D experience under like two DMs). Rather than beating up ghuls from start to finish, the story's events involve a lot of the research they have to do to figure out who the ghul hunter is, what he wants, and how to track him down.

I think what I liked best about this book was how the characters' outlook on ghul hunting differed along the age gap more than the gender gap. The older characters were all, "I'm too old for this shit!" And both younger characters were like, "WE WILL KICK THEIR ASSES!" while secretly thinking, Oh God, am I doing it all wrong? The older characters are more comfortable in their skins, their roles in society, and their relationships with God, but Raseed and Zamia are both still trying to figure it out.

The primary antagonist was a kind of uncomplex, pure evil dude. He wasn't even really important except for, y'know, all those ghuls he sent running around wrecking the place. That wasn't as interesting as it could be, but I guess that's how the kind of guy who would serve the Traitorous Angel rolls? But the secondary antagonist/folk hero, the Falcon Prince, was much better - it wasn't till the end that you saw which way he'd fall, and I think the why of it was still unclear. Was he a good man doing bad things to achieve a noble purpose, or a bad man pretending to be good because the Robin Hood shtick gets you a lot of followers?


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