Throne of the Crescent Moon is Saladin Ahmed's debut novel, and as far as first novels go is a fun read/listen. This little book seems to be getting a lot of attention right now, for some very good reasons, but I felt its light plot and setting (despite being different from medieval European) didn't quite live up to all the hype. That isn't to say I didn't like it, however. I enjoyed the story very much, and think it's worth any fantasy fan's time.
I listened to the book as usual, and have to say that Phil Gigante's voices were perfect. He really made the effort to give distinct voices to each of the characters, and my favorite was the demon's, whose name I have no clue how to spell. I highly suggest listening to this one rather than reading if you have time for audiobooks.
Old and fat Doctor Adoulla Makhslood is a ghul hunter. He's tired of life, and would rather sit around and drink tea than risk his life again. He makes a great protagonist. Raseed bas Raseed is the doctor's young assistant, who happens to be a supernaturally-gifted holy warrior. He is the perfect sidekick and character foil for Adoulla. Zamia Badawi can shape-shift into a lioness. She doesn't trust anyone, but is forced to work with the doctor and Raseed to claim vengeance for the murder of her band. These are the three main heroes of TotCM. Each is a fully-fleshed character, with weaknesses, goals, and magical power. The characters in my opinion are what really shine in this novel.
TotCM is sword and sorcery as a single novel. It feels, though, that it will lean towards epic as the series progresses. I don't know how to feel about this, since the magic is most definitely low fantasy rather than high. There is little explanation of the magics, and the costs aren't always apparent. For me, the magic was the weakest part of the book, because it just seemed too easy to use.
The plot structure is similar to Brandon Sanderson's The Alloy of Law, but felt even more simplistic. Without giving anything away, the majority of the time is spent on trying to solve a mystery, with action scenes sprinkled throughout. I felt the middle slowed down more than is should have, but the beginning and end were satisfying and exciting. There are some characters and plot points that seem to be more for the series rather than just this book, but I felt that their introduction and inclusion flowed well with the story of the doctor and his young companions. It will be interesting to see how the story continues with the doctor's arc after TotCM, because I thought it ended perfectly after this one book. Hopefully Ahmed will have some surprises in store.
The last parts I want to mention are the religion and setting. A lot of TotCM's praise has been for its "exotic" setting. I can't fault the praise--I enjoyed the Arabian-esque city most of the story is set in. However, I think it's a bit silly for people to get so excited for it, like there has never been a fantasy with Arabian trappings. George R.R. Martin's settings certainly get Middle-Easternish at times, as well as some of Robert Jordan's. We have Aladdin, Arabian Nights, Prince of Persia, The Mummy, and several other fantasies that deal with a similar setting. So this kind of fantasy has been done before. Also, the religion in TotCM was too much like Islam. I'm no expert on that religion--far from it--but on the outside they seemed very alike. It would have been nice to see more originality in setting and religion in this book.
I give Throne of the Crescent Moon a solid 3.5 out of 5 stars. It's a great debut, but when compared to other fantasy debuts of the past few years (The Lies of Locke Lamora, The Blade Itself, The Name of the Wind) it feels a bit over-hyped. The characters were a lot of fun to follow, and I will absolutely listen to the next book when it is published. I think that the world and story will only get better. Check it out!