Audiobook Review: Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed

8 02 2012

Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed

Read by Phil Gigante

Brilliance Audio

Length: 10 Hrs 16 Min

Genre: Fantasy

Quick Thought: Throne of the Crescent Moon is the rare fantasy that seems to do everything right in an accessible, highly readable way. This book will thrill fantasy fans, and make them long to discover even more about Saladin Ahmed’s intriguing world. Even better, this is the type of accessible fantasy that I would have no trouble recommending to people whether they are fans of the genre or not.

Grade: A

Of all the genres that make up the strange all encompassing label of "genre" fiction, I am probably most picky about Fantasy. I really never got into true Fantasy until my late twenties. Before that, I read mostly thrillers and horror novels, while my obsession with Post Apocalyptic literature pushed me deeper and deeper into science fiction. Yet, due to my love of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series, I started to take forays into Fantasy. I found for the most part, despite the fact that I loved Tolkien, I couldn’t really get into the whole elves and dragons, swords and sorcery thing. A foreword in a book I was reading turned me onto Stephen Donaldson, and I slowly began entering the world of the Big Bad Fantasy novel. I have always been amazed with the fantasists’ ability to create worlds. I loved the way that Donaldson’s The Land became a character in its own way, and how Martin suckered me into Westeros with A Game of Thrones, before even unleashing the more magical aspects of his world. Yet for me, world building, no matter how proficiently done is never enough. I needed characters. I needed people who I can relate with, who I could cheer for, who I could become frustrated with, because no matter how fantastic the world was, I needed to experience it with someone. When I first began to hear the buzz about Ahmed Saladin’s new fantasy novel, Throne of the Crescent Moon, I was a bit skeptical. It sounded like one of those Sword and Sorcery novels for hardcore Fantasy Fans. Yet, I’ll have to admit, I was pulled into the hype through social media. I became intrigued, and was finally pushed over the top when I heard the audiobook version was being read by my favorite narrator Phil Gigante. Yeah, I’m a sucker for a good narrator. Sue me.

Throne of the Crescent Moon is set in the great city of Dhamsawaat, an Arabian city from an alternate past, where maji sell their spells, and ghuls are a scourge of the servants of God. Doctor Abdoulla Makhslood, is an aging ghul hunter and an enemy of the fallen angle. When a former lover asks him to look into the untimely death of a relative, Doctor and his apprentice Raseed find themselves immersed in a battle against an enemy believed to be long dead, who is serving the forces they both oppose. Ahmed has created a vivid and refreshingly unique world based loosely on Arabian mythology. It’s a world of ancient evils and men of faith who battle in the name of God. Yet, it is not the black and white world of simple good versus evil. It’s a complex land of class struggle, and subtle religious differences leading to grand conflict. While I enjoyed this world, it was the characters that blew me away. On the surface, the Doctor seems to be an ebullient carefree character, quick with a joke and even quicker with an insult. Yet, dig down and you find a man who carries his heroism like a burden. He has surrounded himself with a strong tight group of friends, most of whom have lost all those close to them. In many ways, this group becomes a family of choice, as opposed to one of blood. I loved the fact that his younger characters, both Raseed his apprentice and the young orphaned tribal girl Zamia, are both overly serious warriors, yet Ahmed never forgets that they are also children, and gives them an appropriate amount of petulance and horror at the Doctor’s joviality. Add to this a greedy oppressive Prince, a robber baron looking to usurp the Princes Throne, some frightening baddies, and an action packed plot full of adventure, and plenty of twists, and you have the rare fantasy that seems to do everything right in an accessible, highly readable way. Throne of the Crescent Moon will thrill fantasy fans, and make them long to discover even more about Saladin Ahmed’s intriguing world, yet, even better, this is the type of accessible fantasy that I would have no trouble recommending to people whether they are fantasy fans or not. Simply put, Throne of the Crescent Moon is a highly enjoyable read.

I have talked before about the flavor of narration. I hate when an author creates a specific ethnic setting and the narrator reads most of the characters as if they are corn fed, Midwestern Americans. Phil Gigante’s narration of Throne of the Crescent Moon is full of flavor appropriate to this story.  Gigante doesn’t just use accents, but finds unique rhythms and enunciations to give each character his own exotic feel. He perfectly captures the Doctor’s often bombastic nature, full of fart sounds and drunken slurring while still portraying the complexities of his character. My favorite moments of the novel had to be Gigante‘s vocalizations of Mouw Awa the manjackal. It was both frightening, yet surprisingly full of a dark humor that made me laugh out. In fact, overall, I love how Gigante captured much of the humor that is prevalent in this novel, yet also delivers many of the more intimate moments with emotional impact. Throne of the Crescent Moon is a wonderful audiobook experience and a genius pairing of author and narrator.


Note: A special thanks to Brilliance Audio for providing me with a copy of this title for review.



10 responses

8 02 2012

Just got my copy of the book,Loving it so far.have you listened to the first law trilogy by Joe Abercrombie? great characters with awesome narration by Steven Pacey.

8 02 2012
Samuel Montgomery-Blinn

Another excellent review — very much in agreement, though I rounded down from 4.5 to 4 stars rather than up to 5 for some ineffable reason it is a very enjoyable book, well narrated.

Krish: I really liked Abercrombie’s trilogy:

While there’s -some- similarities here, the action in Throne very much puts a non-European cast and setting in the center, rather than off in the southern regions, and while it has its dark/gritty/torture/grimdark moments to it it is a tone softer than The First Law in that regard, and we don’t spend hours and hours inside the head of someone as demented as Glokta, or as violent as Logen. I think Ahmed’s characters are colored much more by an overriding morality (helping others for example) than the more morally neutral/indifferent (or perhaps even amoral) judgements of Abercrombie’s characters.

9 02 2012

I wish Joe would write a book set in Ghurkul or anything about the continuing struggles between the two magi.

9 02 2012
Sam M-B

I think Mr. Abercrombie is still a young writer building up his talents and exploring what is possible. On the one hand, I am excited to see what he does “truly” next, in another world entirely. On the other hand, after passing up Best Served Cold and The Heroes, I’m really looking forward to Red Country, which is reportedly a more Cormac McCarthy-esque western approach to world of The First Law. On the other-other hand, yes, while he could just keep writing books which more directly continue the character/storyline from the original trilogy and, basically, print money, I’m pretty OK with leaving things as they were on that score, too. I’d like to see him tackle contemporary fantasy, or sf, to try something big and come up a little bit short (as Mieville sometimes does, though still wonderfully much more often than not) than to keep stamping out sequels and/or prequels, you know? And I think that’s kind of what he’s tried to do with the 2 follow on books so far, though it’s the third of these which looks to finally be pulling me back in.

8 02 2012
Dave Thompson

Glad to hear you’re learning to love fantasy 🙂

I am just about done reading this one, but now am thinking it might be fun to listen to later on in audio? I’ll have to poke around and see what else Gigante has narrated…

8 02 2012

Gigante has narrated a lot of excellent series. If you like science fiction you definitely have to listen to him narrate The Stainless Steel Rat series.

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