by Saladin Ahmed
DAW Books New York, NY 2013
This is the first book of the Crescent Moon Kingdoms series. I got myself into it with my eyes wide open and I’m not disappointed. This is a first novel and it holds the promise of even better work to come.
The setting is highly influenced by the scenes and cultures of Asia Minor. It is an Arabian Nights world with demon hunters, herbalist alchemists and magicians. Water is scarce and politics complicated.
This story plants us in the middle of an overcrowded and impoverished city ruled by a cruel and selfish Khalif. The city guards are more likely to harass and bully the citizens than protect them. There is also a rise in “odd” deaths. Body’s are found with their hearts ripped out. This is a sign that there is someone very powerful calling up the demons.
In this world of Djenn and ghuls there is also a rebellion forming. A man calling himself the Falcon Prince has taken on the characteristics of Robin Hood. He is a terror to the wealthy and a boon to the poor. He appears with food and medicine in places where all hope is lost. Although he is not actively sowing discontent, it is clear that he is a threat to the throne.
Our characters are an odd bunch. There are the aging ghul-hunter (the last of his kind) and his dear friend the magician. There is the magician’s wife, a notable alchemist and an immigrant. Then the youngsters a Dervish warrior whose devotion to his calling is continually challenged by the irreverent ghoul-hunter. And lastly a young tribeswoman, who can turn herself into a sacred lion of the desert.
This is a delightful fantasy. It has the exotic and the familiar. It’s characters are well developed and highly flawed, but honorable to a fault. The religious structures fuel the magic and empower the Dervish and still are questioned as to the limits of human devotion. I am truly looking forward to more.