Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed

Ahmed’s debut masterfully paints a world both bright and terrible. Doctor Adoulla Makhslood is a professional destroyer of ghuls, clawed creatures whose hissing sounds like “a thousand serpents rasping with a man’s hatred.” He’s almost ready to retire when an unheard-of number of the monsters all but wipe out an entire clan of the Badawi people. Hunting the sorcerer who raised the ghuls, Adoulla and his religiously uptight swordsman apprentice, Raseed, are aided by the lone Badawi survivor, a girl named Zamia who can transform into a lion. They soon discover that the mysterious figure plans to cast an ancient sacrificial spell powerful enough to wreck the world. Unobtrusive hints of backstory contribute to the sense that this novel is part of a larger ongoing tale, and the Arab-influenced setting is full of vibrant description, characters, and religious expressions that will delight readers weary of pseudo-European epics. –Publishers Weekly, Starred Review