Thursday, December 24, 2015

Review: Throne of the Crescent Moon (The Crescent Moon Kingdoms #1)

Throne of the Crescent Moon (The Crescent Moon Kingdoms, #1)Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is a brilliant, if flawed, gem worth reading in spite of its problems. Ahmed does Arabian high fantasy better than any I’ve come across, with the style and panache that envelops readers deep into the warm embrace of the author’s vividly crafted world.

Throne of the Crescent Moon” follows the trials and tribulations of an aging adventurer-scholar, his zealous young dervish protog√©, and a fiercely unrefined bedouin girl as they pursue ghuls and the sorcerous evil creating them. Ahmed deftly weaves political intrigue, class conflict, sexual tension, mystery, and adventure into a wonderous yarn which picks up speed as it unfurls, hurling the reader toward the final conflict between the protagonist and an antagonist who never quite establishes himself. It is perhaps too cruel to call the mysterious villain a cardboard cutout evil doer, but his thin presence does seem better suited to Scooby and the gang than Abdoulla Makhslood, last of the ghul hunters. In fact, it is probably because Abdullah and his friends, foils, and supporting ensemble are so well rounded that the absence of a strong antagonist is so keenly felt. Nevertheless, Saladin Ahmed gets so very many things just right that this is a book worth reading and an author worth watching.

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Review: The Last Witness

The Last WitnessThe Last Witness by K.J. Parker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Some ideas are meant for novellas; sadly, there are good ideas which have been thrown on a rack and tortured into novel-length monstrosities—or worse, serial monstrosities. In “The Last Wish”, K. J. Parker weaves a tapestry whose slightly frayed edges suggest that this could have been one such book, had the author not had the wisdom to keep the driving conceit in focus. The book plays with the idea of memory transfer, willing and unwilling, across a spectrum of circumstance, while examining the effects foisted upon victims and participants. Parker gives the notion well and thorough treatment, wasting neither scene nor character in service to the muse. The memory stealing protagonist’s fluid identity gets a bit confusing at times, and some supporting locations and characters would benefit from additional detail, but such transgressions are forgivable when everything else delivers such satisfaction.

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