Throne of the Crescent Moon, by Saladin Ahmed

Throne of the Crescent Moon [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy] is Saladin Ahmed‘s first fantasy novel.

It’s good. You should read it.

What, you want more? Okay, fine. Here’s the official summary from the publisher:

The Crescent Moon Kingdoms, land of djenn and ghuls, holy warriors and heretics, Khalifs and killers, is at the boiling point of a power struggle between the iron-fisted Khalif and the mysterious master thief known as the Falcon Prince.  In the midst of this brewing rebellion a series of brutal supernatural murders strikes at the heart of the Kingdoms. It is up to a handful of heroes to learn the truth behind these killings.

One of those heroes is Doctor Adoulla Makhslood, “the last real ghul hunter in the great city of Dhamsawaat,” and he’s awesome. He’s old, he’s burnt out, and dammitall he’s doing the best he can. He’s not invulnerable or superhuman, and he’s facing a darkness more powerful than anything he’s encountered in his long career as a ghul hunter.

You also have Raseed bas Raseed, a badass holy warrior whose time with Adoulla creates a wonderful conflict between the rigid purity of Raseed’s religious beliefs and the messiness of the real world. He and Adoulla are joined by Zamia Badawi, who is just as deadly as Raseed, but where Raseed is disciplined and focused, Badawi is raw and passionate and angry.

Ahmed does a great job with his characters, making you feel for them in a way few authors can. The worldbuilding was refreshing as well. I love that Adoulla’s magic is faith-based, and the contrast between his faith and Raseed’s. The city, the tribes, the history … everything feels real. Ahmed isn’t just slapping in two-dimensional set pieces.

The book gets rather dark at time. Our villains are genuinely Evil, and that comes through from page one.

Much as I loved this book (and I’ll definitely be picking up the next), the ending didn’t sit quite right with me, and I’ve been trying to figure out why. It’s hard to get into details without spoiling things, but I think it comes down to the emotional payoff not quite matching up to what I was hoping for. That might just be a matter of personal taste.

Overall, a strong first novel, and I’m looking forward to the sequel.

Throne of the Crescent Moon comes out on February 7.