A Total Inability To Connect

Throne of the Crescent Moon - Saladin Ahmed I really do not know where to start with this book. I've heard so many things about this book and about Saladin himself, and despite the lackluster score on Goodreads, it seemed well regarded. My desire for "something a little different" drew me to it as well, as I've found myself interested in fantasy with a middle east theme in the past, but have not had the best of luck with ("The Black God's War" by Moses Siregar III was an example of one that I just could not "get into").

Unfortunately, much of the "middle eastern theme" in this book is simply attire, food choices, some arbitrary (though very few) social norms, and above all - their ties with God. If you plan on reading this book, well, just hope that you don't mind reading a novel where "God" is probably the 2nd or 3rd most used word in the book. Everything revolves around God, and every single character (save the antagonists) constantly praise their Almighty God, Merciful God, thank the wonderful God etc. The two main POV characters both participate in this in their own ways. Dr. Adoulla Makhslood, the ghul hunter, is a slightly jaded man who wields great powers when it comes to fighting ghuls, the supernatural baddies that are tragically under-explained. He fights them at times simply by uttering prayers to God, or magical incantations channelling God. He praises God frequently for anything and everything. His partner, however, is even more extreme. Raseed bas Raseed is a dervish, a warrior of God, a religious fanatic who is a Middle Eastern equivalent to a Paladin. The type who does everything in a "god wills it" fashion, who has a single-minded focus to please his God. While I understand that this is part of the cultural differences, and it is integral to defining this world, it becomes tiresome after the six hundredth time a character praises their God. If you can immerse yourself and ignore it, then it obviously is not an obstacle.

At it's heart, Throne is a sword and sorcery fantasy novel, simply in a different setting. The book is relatively short, and you're not going to find the long-winded history lessons or worldbuilding you would in a longer, more epic fantasy type book. The book is a first person POV, switching between characters, and many times a scene will commence, then the next chapter will be the same scene from another point of view, but with things happening the first POV does not see. The plot is a fairly typical "magical bad guy threatening to take over the world unless the protagonists save everyone" scenario, where the good guys are attacked and magically survive, and against all odds fight back etc etc etc etc. It's all been done. WHICH IS FINE! Now and again I enjoy a good simplstic hack and slash style traditional fantasy, and I don't think a book is crap because it chooses to go that route. However, I feel that if you're going to go with something "against the grain" in fantasy as far as setting and culture goes, why go with the most simplistic story style you can? Not that there aren't interesting pieces to the storyline, it just feels a bit underwhelming; like it could have been so much more.

Saladin's writing is enjoyable, his dialogue engaging, his characters true to themselves and rarely going too far outside their personality. There's a lot to enjoy about this book, but I couldn't help leaving it feeling disappointed, or feeling that he could have done a lot more with this world than he did. It's apparently the first in a series, though with the way he tied up at the end I'm not totally sure where he'll go with it - I'm sure I'll give the second book a try, if for novelty's sake and the fact that Saladin seems like a properly cool dude. I don't know what I really expected going into this book, but I know I left feeling like I wished for more.