Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Arabian Style

"Simple things ought not be taken for granted" - Litaz Daughter of Likami

The above quote by one of Saladin's quintet of characters I think characterizes why this novel was such a success to me. It was the little details he included about his cast that made them more real and the descriptions and inclusion of small details made Dhamswaat the city it is set in more present. It's the importance of tea and poetry, the indulgence of expensive imported sweets, the friendly banter and gentle play between friends on a night of celebration that really bring the characters to life along with their worries fears and desires. Though the setting is marvelous and the enemies truly monstrous in all the best and pulpy ways his cast steal the show.

Throne of the Crescent Moon is a deceptively short fantasy novel at 274pages for how big it feels. Saladin filled the world with palpable and vivid details of it's setting, hints of its myths and history, and with a cast of characters I will sorely miss till the next volume . It's exactly the kind of book I love discovering; one that can move me to both honest smiles and tears, what more it managed to surprise me when I though I had it kind of figured out. Throne is not the first book to pull its inspiration for its second world setting from the stories of the Arabian Nights or the folklore of the near east and Northern Africa but coming from someone who is of Arabian heritage there seems to be more vitality and passion for the material, an internalizing of it and a je ne cest qua to the feel. It was a great unashamedly pulp style fantasy adventure tale and is a measure of Mr Ahmed's art as a storyteller and world builder.

Ok, I know what is the story and would it be for you. As a fan of sword and sorcery style adventures and pulp fiction I can endorse the action adventure feel of the story. The tale starts as a search for ghulish killers of the main characters one time loves family and grows into a threat to the city and the world from an ancient and malicious evil. In the city of the Khalif there is a hero of the people the Falcon Prince waging a fight against the abuses of the new ruler; there cruel guardsmen punishing pick-pocketing with execution and roving groups of religious thugs. Saladin gives lots of little hints to the bigger picture and wets the appetite for more. The story is told from multiple viewpoints following the inner lives and actions of the heroes as they learn about the threats facing them. His characters are familiar heroic types to fantasy readers but the choice to make several of them older and some retired monster hunters and not making them merely mentors but able if weary heroes along with the young devout and hotheaded ones.

I think this is a great and possibly overlooked book among the doorstops that are also among my favorite books and writers. I think Saladin's focus on the important parts of telling a story makes this tale so strong. I, as a old D&D player, love all those books that spend time with the crunch, the mechanics, of their new unique magic systems and that magi-babble is abscent here and I really iked that. There are multiple paths to power in his setting with different costs and uses and Mr. Ahmed just shows this through their use or the way characters talk about them. I'd love to BS with him about thoes things given the chance but I rather enjoyed the focus on the smells of the tea, the visceral descriptions of the food and the everyday life along with the horrors of the man-jackel beast and other nasties.

I could write about the creatures ot the brilliant way he got to explore several different expressions of love or how he looks at questions about societal evils versus magical threats but I should stop before I ruin anything. I could but why not go to his website and read the free chapter and the Conan pastiche in his blog. He is a writer who deserved the nominations he got for his short fiction that is as unique, new and yet familiar like Throne. If I have wetted your appetite go and take a look; we have to make sure he gets to write more of this world he's got in his imagination.... I for one would love some of the adventures of his characters in their earlier days.....

Saladin Ahmed's website is here you can get a taste of Throne on the site here along with the map of his world
You can get a hold a e-book collection of all his fabulous short fiction here at Amazon, B&N, Smashwords and Kobo
My copy of Throne of the Crescent Moon was purchased.

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