I read Saladin Ahmed’s The Throne of the Crescent Moon on a bit of whim (and ages ago now, so excuse the shorter review) when my brother and I were looking for something different for me to read to him at night (we are each other’s audiobooks because we’re cool like that). We’d heard good things about it and my brother had—very briefly—started listening to the actual audiobook and liked the setting.
I find it one of the hardest books I have had to review: it is so very different from every other fantasy book I have read that I have nothing to compare it to. Not that comparison is necessary, but I have no basis on which to judge this book apart from how it touched me. The characters, the landscapes, even down to the writing style seemed to carry with them a touch of exoticness so very genuine that it made for a completely different, and wonderful, read.
Ahmed’s characters are a colourful lot, effortlessly deep and real, even those seen only for a couple of pages. There is something in the way that Ahmed writes that brings the characters to life, making them pop off the page in their colourfulness: it’s in the small gestures that tell us more than a page of description could, in the looks exchanged, in the most mundane of interactions that they become so very three dimensional.
I don’t think I found any of the characters dislikeable, and given that some are advanced in age and I sometimes struggle to get attached to older characters (I feel much too young to relate most of the time), there isn’t one member of the cast I wasn’t attached to by the end of the book. Adoulla, Raseed, Zamia, and the other important members of the cast are definitely characters that I would like to see more of.
Ahmed’s writing was enchanting from the start, creating beautiful landscapes with vivid and exotic descriptions. It created a feeling similar to reading stories from The Thousand and One Nights, which was very refreshing in a market where most fantasy uses medieval (or Renaissance) Europe as the base inspiration for its setting. The story too was both exotic and compelling, only revealing itself in all its importance towards the latter end of the book, when the stakes suddenly rocket sky high, and force the cast to risk their lives (I spent the last few pages awfully worried for everyone).
I enjoyed the pace, which was somewhat slower than I would have expected of a story of this length and yet never lulled and never bored. Instead, it seemed to want to give the reader the time to think, to ponder over the events and their consequences alongside of the characters creating a sense of immersion. At times, it almost felt as though I could have been sitting in the room with Adoulla and his friends.
Overall, I very much so enjoyed The Throne of the Crescent Moon and would definitely jumped on a second book if this was to be a series. It told a vivid, enchanting tale with characters and a writing style to match. It was a world that was hard to leave behind when I turned the last page of the book, and definitely one I hope to be able to go back to someday!