So… I’ve kind of slacked on the “books” front on this blog. I apologize.
To make up for it, I want to let you know about the most amazing book I’ve read lately- Saladin Ahmed’s Throne of the Crescent Moon.
The book’s main character is older- Doctor Adoulla Makhslood is in his 60’s, at least. His young apprentice, Raseed the dervish, is a skilled fighter, but his youth is pretty evident in his character. And while both men are committed to fighting the ghuls raised by evil men, their attitudes and philosophies on this topic are totally different- sometimes complimentary, sometimes conflicting. Several other characters (including kick-ass Zamia Badawi) emphasize and illustrate the various ways of viewing this conflict and duty, to fighting evil. And it’s brilliant.
I mean, how often do we get a straight up swords-and-sorcery novel that actually talks about the personal costs of the fight against evil? This book isn’t perfect (the pacing in the last third is a bit quick- while exhilarating to read, I had to go back and figure stuff out once or twice), but it’s both entertaining and meaty. And we’re spending much of our time with older characters- you can really feel the exhaustion, exaspiration, and physical toll that years of physical battle have taken on Adoulla and his older colleagues. And while many of the younger characters do have the zeal and energy characteristic of most young fantasy protagonists, seeing such energy through older eyes tempers and humanizes everyone involved.
The other thing I loved about this novel was how fundamentally urban it was- Dhamsawaat, our primary setting, is described in loving detail. And while not all of our characters love it (and the novel switches between multiple points of view, so you get a good sense of everyone’s opinions), Adoulla does- and that love is a fundamental part of what makes Adoulla amazing and interesting. I mean, this is a city that our characters fully admit is crowded, smells of sewage, and corrupt. And yet it’s Adoulla’s home, and that sense of home is so complete it fills the novel, and gives us a sense of purpose when some of the more interesting philosophical conflicts are running slow.
This is also a novel that is fundamentally Arab- in all of the best ways. Everything about this book, from the way the characters think and speak, to the beautiful setting (including one of my favorite descriptions of tea, ever) feels like home, to me.
So, this novel hits all sorts of genre standards. It’s fast-paced, and action-centric. But it’s also got all sorts of fun philosophical stuff going on, and the most amazing setting. I think there’s something in here for most people- and if you love fantasy, this is definitely something new. So, affiliate linky, here ya go. Let me know what y’all think!
Update: You can check out the first chapter here, on the author’s site. It’s awesome. Go read it.