In light of the atrocious Muslim travel ban attempt by the current US administration (ugh), my social media feed was full of protests and condemnations. However there was one article (By Emily Temple on Literary Hub) that caught my eye, not because it was funny or furious, but it was the only thing in the mess of my newsfeed that suggested a practical and positive reaction.
Essentially, the article suggested to educate yourself by reading books by and about Muslims to temper the ignorance and growing Islamaphobia. Newsfeed and social media provide a variety of positions, but actually reading work written by Muslims from a Muslim perspective is a position that I haven’t really taken into account. I’m of the view that everyone has racist views (including yours truly), conscious and unconscious, and these views that we carry around affect the way we interact with others. So the small act of reading books by Muslim authors is, in my opinion, a way of getting some perspective.
“Throne of the Crescent Moon” by Saladin Ahmed is a rip roaring adventure set in a fantasy world I’ve never really encountered. Fantasy books are full of characters set in and/or drawn from some interpretation of European-esque myths and legends: fantastic creatures (dragons, wyverns), ancient races (elves, dwarves, orcs etc.) and some kind of system of magic. This book has these fantasy world elements based on ancient Middle-eastern legends and myths – something I know nothing about. I’m not talking about Aladdin (the legend-now-Disneyfied) or Prince of Persia Hollywood-bastardisations. The author introduces the reader to a world that has the familiar fantasy elements but not as we know it. It’s best to read the book to get a sense of the world the author has built.
The thing that struck me the most about this story were the references to God that are very much part of the world. The references are not religious in any sense but the world which this story takes place revolves around religious customs. Greetings, curses, attribution to good / bad fortune are in reference a higher power(s). Indeed, the central conflict is between God and “The Traitorous Angel” but the story isn’t presented in a philosophical sense but through the eyes of the humans that are “blessed” with powers (from each “side”) to do battle. I found the references to God intriguing and it did take a little while to get used to.
The one thing I did find challenging was managing my expectation of what I thought was going to happen during the story. Without giving away any spoilers, I did expect the characters to be doing more fighting against the “ghuls” and “djinns”. There is a lot action, there is also a lot of talk between the main characters. My impatience I think comes from my (stereotypical?) expectations of what happens in fantasy novels and I found these non-action sections interesting but challenging to read.
In all, I really enjoyed Saladin Ahmed’s first novel and I’m SO looking forward to the next book in The Crescent Moon Kingdom series.
Image of the book my own. As ever, if you’ve read this book, or can give any recommendations, please do comment below!