The Crescent Moon Kingdoms, home to djenn and ghuls, holy warriors and heretics, are 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.
Doctor Adoulla Makhslood, “the last real ghul hunter in the great city of Dhamsawaat,” just wants a quiet cup of tea. Three score and more years old, he has grown weary of hunting monsters and saving lives, and is more than ready to retire from his dangerous and demanding vocation. But when an old flame’s family is murdered, Adoulla is drawn back to the hunter’s path. Raseed bas Raseed, Adoulla’s young assistant, is a hidebound holy warrior whose prowess is matched only by his piety. But even as Raseed’s sword is tested by ghuls and manjackals, his soul is tested when he and Adoulla cross paths with the tribeswoman Zamia. Zamia Badawi, Protector of the Band, has been gifted with the near-mythical power of the lion-shape, but shunned by her people for daring to take up a man’s title. She lives only to avenge her father’s death. Until she learns that Adoulla and his allies also hunt her father’s killer. Until she meets Raseed. When they learn that the murders and the Falcon Prince’s brewing revolution are connected, the companions must race against time to save the life of a vicious despot. In so doing they discover a plot for the Throne of the Crescent Moon that threatens to turn Dhamsawaat, and the world itself, into a blood-soaked ruin.
First, I was surprised how short the novel is, running just a mere 274 pages. It first reminded me of David Eddings The Belgariad, a five novel series that was anywhere between 300 to 350 pages in length. Those books were not overtly complex, and the story was rather straightforward. But Eddings, fully aware of the garden of thorns he was stepping into with his fantasy series (the early 1980s was the beginning of slew of fantasy novels by authors insprired by Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings), so he added a lot of humor into the dark universe he created. Thus he created a readable and quirky series (that eventually became 12 books) that set it apart from LOTR, but could still be appreciated and liked by those fans of that series.
Ahmed does that here as well, but the book feels too close to being an over-long short story than the first salvo in what appears to be a mutli-volume series. Unlike Eddings, the author story is too straightforward, filled with too much coincidence and convenience. As another reviewer pointed out, “the plot moved from one set to the next with very little difficulty, and the usual way of things was for one character or another to say something along the lines of, ‘Oh. Problem? No worries. I have a guy that can help us with that.’”
And this made me conflicted. I appreciate a writer who can tell a lean fantasy based series and not get bogged down in the ennui that caused me to give up on Robert Jordan and even George R.R. Martin (great attention to detail, but sometimes you got to cut this crap out), but the story is lacking because he did not fully create a sense of urgency with the characters or even the situation.
And the dread deus ex machine showed up at the end, and I was not surprised by it all –Ahmed telegraphed it ages earlier. Still, he created a very real world -added a bit of diversity that is much needed in this genre- but all that goodness goes to waste on story that felt rushed and incomplete.