Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed

Doctor Adoulla Makhslood is certainly an unlikely epic fantasy hero. He’s fat, past his prime, and far less interested in magical adventure than in sipping cardamom tea and dreaming of his unrequited love for an over-the-hill whore turned brothelkeeper. But unheroic though he is, Makhslood is the last of the great ghul hunters—the only honorable magician left in a city full of frauds and charlatans. The tarnished honor of his beloved native city of Dhamsawaat rests in Dr. Makhslood’s hands. And when his mistress asks him to save her orphaned great-nephew, whose parents have just been devoured by bone ghuls, Makhslood is cast into the middle of a diabolical plot on which (naturally!) the fate of the civilized world depends.

Throne of the Crescent Moon appears to be the first book of a forthcoming trilogy—and I couldn’t be happier about that. I only wish that the next two volumes were going to be out in time for sumer vacation this year, because Saladin Ahmed has produced that rarest and finest of literary treasures: beach reading for the thinking fantasy fan. This book delights, amuses, romances, and entertains the reader …without ever insulting his or her intelligence. And on top of that, Ahmed has produced an epic fantasy that feels authentically Islamic, not just in its setting, historical references, and magical systems, but also in the wonderfully drawn character of Doctor Makhslood, a man who sees all the absurdity and charlatanry around him…and yet somehow manages to keep on keeping on with a self-deprecating heroism that reminds me uncannily of more than one Arab human rights activist I’ve known over the years.

Throne of the Crescent Moon is a delight in every imaginable way. The writing is surefooted and confident. The humor is spot-on page after page. The setting is so richly drawn that it practically smells like walking down the streets of Fez or Cairo. The magic draws convincingly on Iraqi and Egyptian folktales, as well as the Thousand and One Nights, Sufi lore, and much much more. And wrapped up in all the swordslinging and spellmongering are a few hard-won grains of wisdom about what it takes to be a hero in a world run by bullies and despots.

–Chris Moriarty, Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine, September/October 2012