I cannot fathom how respected reviewers that I follow could give this anything more than two stars, let alone herald it as the years best debut release. Are you all on crack? Is the author paying you all off? Only once in my life have I ever not been able to finish a book (and that was in 2008 with Kate Elliott's Spirit Gate). Throne of the Crescent Moon has now brought that tally up to two.
The worst part is that at only a short 288 pages in length, it still took me a week to get halfway because I literally kept falling asleep - and I think if a book hasn't gotten any good by halfway, you know it's time to throw in the towel.
Where did it go wrong? Great title, great cover art and foremost for me a great premise - I was really looking forward to some Middle Eastern flavour after a lifetime of medieval-centric stories. That's really about it on the pros list.
Firstly, there is absolute zilch world building and character development. All I really got to learn was that there was a crowded city, a desert, an impressive palace, a square with cool statues and a green door - that's about as far as Ahmed's prodigious lack of anything descriptive gets the reader. The three main characters are about as three dimensional as a Hallmark greet card, the ones with the annoying, repetitive jingle every time you open them. Every word that comes out of Adoulla's mouth is a complaint about his age, weariness and likely impending death (other than the times he is making unexpected, unjustified wise cracks/wild bursts of outrage). This is great at the beginning for setting up a protagonist that doesn't follow the usual tropes, but by page fifteen it's getting old. Exactly the same situation with Raseed and Zamia, except old and weary was replaced with overly-pious/confused about liking vagina and woe my family is dead/I am constantly insulted, respectively.
It was like each character had one, single, simple thing that defined them and Ahmed chose to harp on about this for the entire story, rather than actually letting the characters, you know, develop and/or express at least one other facet of their personality.
Every time Raseed opened his mouth, all I heard was 'I got a- I got a- I got a pocket, got a pocket full of sunshine.'
And can anyone honestly say what any of the characters looked like, other than Zamia as a lion. Unless I missed it as I was drooling and my head was lolling backwards, this book is like reading from the perspective of a blind person.
As if any of this wasn't bad enough, the plot itself is slow-moving, predictable, unimaginative, incredibly lame and downright boring. Ahmed shows absolutely no skill or subtlety in moving the story along, instead hand delivering information to the characters on a silver platter. The worst example of this is the villain Mouw Awa, who seems to have Tourette's and within thirty seconds manages to divulge his entire identity, nature and plan to the protagonists.
And I'm sorry, but what the hell is Adoulla's magic. He plucks an object out of his skirts (sometimes not even that) and mutters a seemingly random one line of scripture and the enemy just literally falls over and dies. And then he just feels a little tired afterwards. What a freaking cop out.
The story just gets more eye-roll-worthy when they discover the identities of their enemies and it turns all anti-life, anti-existence, so dark and foul and evil that it would make Baby Jesus roll over and vomit. Well, Saladin, I had the same reaction. How about you stop harping on about how nasty these guys are and actually just show us and get on with the story.
I just put it all in the basket with guys that brag about how big their penises are.
Suffice to say I didn't like the book. I will not be moving on and pretending it never happened.