The Crescent Moon Kingdoms, home to djenn and ghuls, holy warriors and heretics, are at the boiling point of a power struggle between the iron-fisted Khalif and the mysterious master thief known as the Falcon Prince. In the midst of this brewing rebellion a series of brutal supernatural murders strikes at the heart of the Kingdoms. It is up to a handful of heroes to learn the truth behind these killings.
Doctor Adoulla Makhslood, “the last real ghul hunter in the great city of Dhamsawaat,” just wants a quiet cup of tea. Three score and more years old, he has grown weary of hunting monsters and saving lives, and is more than ready to retire from his dangerous and demanding vocation. But when an old flame’s family is murdered, Adoulla is drawn back to the hunter’s path.
Raseed bas Raseed, Adoulla’s young assistant, is a hidebound holy warrior whose prowess is matched only by his piety. But even as Raseed’s sword is tested by ghuls and manjackals, his soul is tested when he and Adoulla cross paths with the tribeswoman Zamia.
Zamia Badawi, Protector of the Band, has been gifted with the near-mythical power of the lion-shape, but shunned by her people for daring to take up a man’s title. She lives only to avenge her father’s death. Until she learns that Adoulla and his allies also hunt her father’s killer. Until she meets Raseed.
When they learn that the murders and the Falcon Prince’s brewing revolution are connected, the companions must race against time—and struggle against their own misgivings—to save the life of a vicious despot. In so doing they discover a plot for the Throne of the Crescent Moon that threatens to turn Dhamsawaat, and the world itself, into a blood-soaked ruin.
I can honestly say that I have never read anything like it, but then most fantasy that I have read have traditionally been styled according to the medieval European formula. Nothing wrong with that, I love it, but I also love experiencing new things. And Saladin Ahmed gives us to an Arabian dream. The kind of world where you would expect to see Aladdin (and not the Disney version) and Sinbad. Dark magic and sand.
It’s a land of religion. You follow the holy words and there is a lot of holy scripture quoting in the book. But it’s also a land filled with magic, good and bad. A country where there are Djinn and Ghuls, who feed on humans. And where there are Ghul hunters. Which leads to our hero of the story. “60” year old Ghul hunter Doctor Adoulla Makhslood, a man who does feel the weight of his work. Not really your typical hero, but then I would not really call him that either. He is just a man doing his job. And he is quick to share his opinions. A man you either like or not.
Helping him in his work he has young Raseed bas Raseed. A Dervish fighter, a holy warrior. Now this guy sure has opinions too, mostly the religious kind. He is naive and young but one good fighter. I was not a fan of all of his ideas, but he is still likeable. On a trip to hunt some ghuls they meet Zamia Badawi, a young girl who can transform into a lion and who is thirsty for vengeance. Yes this girl wants to see blood flow, and at times I do not know what to make of her. Together they are one weird trio. Especially when later a married couple are thrown into the mix too. But they are all characters to root for and characters that you do not forget. They all have good and bad sides.
The book is about the hunt for some Ghuls and this soon shows to be a part of a bigger problem as someone wants to bring down the Khalif. There is death, more magic and mysteries to unravel. If that wasn’t enough the city of Dhamsawaat is also being terrorized or saved, depending on your point of view, by the Falcon Prince. He is man who wants to bring down the greedy Khalif, and he steals from the rich and helps the poor. He is a man that I had lots of opinions about. Was he good? Was he bad? That I can’t not tell you as that is one big spoiler.
It is an interesting book who brings something new into fantasy. There is lots of mythology around the world to choose from or create from and I am glad he chose this world. It was a world that felt real, yes it could just have happened. You never know. In that he does well. It’s not a world that all fantastical, but a world that is recognizable. The end also leaves you wanting more. It’s an end, as I am not a fan of cliffhangers. But it also promises more to come. There are some lose threads still around and I do wonder what will happen next.
Paperback, 288 pages
Published January 17th 2013 by Gollancz (first published February 7th 2012)
The Crescent Moon Kingdoms #1