Sunday, 24 February 2013

Review: Throne of the Crescent Moon

Throne of the Crescent Moon
Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'd heard good things of this, so I persevered through the prologue, despite the fact that torture usually puts me off a book instantly. I still think it could have been dispensed with, and I'm dinging the book one star for it, on the understanding that it's mainly because that aspect is a poor match for my personal taste. But I'm glad I kept reading, because this was very good.

The thing Saladin Ahmed does best in this book is to set up conflicted characters. Each of the characters has a powerful conflict making them discontented, even miserable, and a powerful duty driving them onwards despite it. I don't think I've ever seen it done so well, and it makes for an excellent, if rather dark, book.

To the ratings. For language, I'll give four and a half stars. While it didn't rise to five-star greatness, the language was fresh, vivid, kept the book moving and was excellently edited. I think I only spotted one typo.

I can't go back and check, because I was reading a hardback from the library, not an ebook, so I couldn't highlight the typo. And I wasn't reading an ebook because for some reason the publishers have not made an ebook edition available in the Asia-Pacific region. That's a pity, because I'd like Saladin Ahmed to have some money for the enjoyment I just had. Still, it was his choice to publish traditionally, with all the downsides as well as upsides that entails.

Anyway, getting off my soapbox again: For plot, four stars. As I mentioned, it keeps moving well, the multiple viewpoint characters enhance it rather than hindering it, it's well-orchestrated and ties up nicely. It's a swashbuckler, but not just a swashbuckler.

The main reason it's not just a swashbuckler is the characters. They develop, their personal stories move on as well as their collective story, they're distinct and memorable. There are things they want and can't have, there are things they struggle and sacrifice for, they're willing to endure loss for the sake of others, which is what I want in my heroes. The main villains are out-and-out villainous, but there is at least one significant ambiguous character who could be a hero or a villain, depending. Five stars for the characters, wish I had more to give.

Finally, the setting. It's not your usual Eurocentric fantasy. That alone makes it more interesting than most fantasy that's been written over the last 30 years or more. And yet, as someone whose main familiarity with this kind of setting is from reading the Arabian Nights, I was able to get into it straight away and understand what was going on. It's not all the same, either. The various Crescent Moon Kingdoms each have several different peoples, whose distinctiveness comes through and hints at a larger, deeper setting that hasn't all been put into the book (always a good thing). Four and a half stars for setting, because I could imagine it being done better (though I've seldom seen that).

It's really a five-star book. I just took one star off for the torture scenes, because I dislike that so much.

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