Friday Reads: Throne of the Crescent Moon

I’ve read a lot of fantasy in my time. As a child, as a teenager, when I was working in a bookshop. I’ve read a lot more since joining Gollancz – catching up on authors I’d never got around to, editing authors that were already published by Gollancz, and reading through the submissions file.

And I love it. I really do, and I always have. But one of the hardest things to do in a genre – any genre – is to make things seem fresh and interesting. There are only so many ways that an author can play with the boundaries of the field in which he or she is writing. They can be a brilliant writer, plotter or creator of ideas, but it’s still rare for something to come as a complete surprise. So when Saladin Ahmed’s debut novel was submitted to me, I wasn’t expecting to read such a different book.

Throne of the Crescent Moon is, in many ways, a very traditional fantasy. It is definitely, to use a somewhat dated phrase, a swords’n’sorcery book, and revels in its straightforward structure and set-up. But where it diverges from the expected is in the setting and in the characters. Our main hero is an ageing loner, the last real ghul hunter in a fantastically depicted Middle Eastern-tinged city, and I hope you will bond with him right away, as I did. The opening scene, in which Doctor Adoulla Makhslood drinks a cup of tea and reflects on his current situation before realising that he is about to be drawn into another dangerous and bloody adventure, is a delight, and it is very clear that his dreams of a life of ease will not come true today.

The Doctor’s young assistant, Raseed bas Raseed, is a religious fanatic who cannot understand why the world can be so wicked, and is not entirely happy with his master’s lax attitude towards life. This unlikely pair will cross paths with assassins, nomads, revolutionaries and monsters in a setting that draws inspiration from The Arabian Nights and Saladin’s heritage.  This book will remind you just how western and euro-centric most fantasy fiction is, and how often we forget that most fantasy worlds tend to be a reflection of our own. It’s also an exciting and entertaining read from a striking new voice. I made my decision to acquire it very quickly, and I think it does that rarest of things – something different.

Most importantly, this book will introduce you to the Crescent Moon Kingdoms. We have many more adventures to undertake in this new world – I hope you enjoy this first one.

Next week we’ll be serialising some of the opening chapters on the blog, but if you can’t wait then you can download The Crescent Moon Kingdoms Sampler, containing an extract, two short stories set in the same world, some additional material from Saladin and an exclusive interview between Saladin and Scott Lynch.

Throne of the Crescent Moon is out on 17th Jan and available for pre-order now