Tag Archives: sword and sorcery

Throne of the crescent moon

Throne of the crescent moon / Saladin Ahmed

Every so often I pick up a book off the new shelf at the library and end up discovering something super fun. This was not one of those times.

Just kidding, it totally was.

Plot summary

Adoulla is a middle aged scholar with a  taste for sweets. He is also the last of the ghoul hunters. His assistant Raseed is a devout member of a martial religious order. Together they must discover the cause of a series of mysterious killings.

So how is it?

Great! This is “low fantasy” at its finest. Think Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser without all the misogyny. (Seriously, reread Swords and deviltry sometime and marvel at some of the worst portrayals of women in fantasy fiction.)

Throne of the crescent moon is emphatically not epic fantasy. This isn’t a book that stops to dwell on deep philosophical issues. It’s more of a Star Wars approach, where good natured adventure takes precedence over making some kind of statement.

I want to make it clear that I’m not criticizing Throne of the crescent moon for not being serious enough. I’m also not saying that all fantasy should be like this. What I am saying is that this book should be judged based on what it is, not what it isn’t.

It’s possible that one could argue that the setting and characters are themselves making a statement. After all, it’s a fantasy novel that draws from The folklore of the Middle East (and North Africa, to some extent) instead of Europe, and the religious environment is quite clearly Muslim. 

I don’t think Ahmed is trying to make any statement here, read some of his interviews and articles and he’s very clear about when he’s trying to make statement and when he’s not. Fantasy fiction is a big tent and sometimes people write the stories they want because that’s what they want to write. It’s not necessarily about “shoving diversity down people’s throats” (seriously people actually say this) or trying to change the genre or force every story to be a certain way. Sometimes people want to write fun adventure stories that draw on their cultural heritage for added richness. People like Tolkien, to name a completely random example that is in no way designed to make a point.

I really don’t intend for this to turn into a lengthy tangent about multiculturalism or how incredibly Eurocentric English language fantasy fiction tends to be. It just … came up. (How’s that for deflecting responsibility for things I write on my own blog?)

Back to the book. Throne of the crescent moon is a book about revolutionaries, mysterious back-alley murders, exploring haunted crypts, and farts.

Recommendation

It’s a must read for fans of Lieber and Robert E. Howard. It’s also a good bet for fans of the Dragonlance series (or any other TSR/WOTC franchise). It’s worth checking out for anyone who enjoys fantasy, especially those who are tired of the generic excessively pastoral Western European setting that has become standard for the genre.

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The scar

The scar / Sergey and Marina Dyachenko 

The scar, first published in Russia in 1996, is a capital-L Literary fantasy novel. The authors use a secondary world to avoid having to confront strict historical realism à la K.J. Parker, tell a story that owes more to Tolstoy or Chekhov than it does Tolkein.

I read the Elinor Huntington translation, which is as far as I can tell the only English translation of this work.

Brief plot summary

Egert Soll is a wealthy soldier in a highly militaristic society. Arrogant to the extreme, he goes through life taking what he wants and generally scoffing at anyone weaker or less priviledged.

All this changes when, in an attempt to seduce a woman, Egert kills a young scholar in a one-sided duel. A mysterious wanderer, witnessing this, challenges Egert to a duel and leaves Egert with a deep facial scar and, apparently, a mysterious curse.

Continue reading The scar