Posted on May 24, 2012 by Monica Valentinelli
Available at Amazon.com
Fantasy as a genre is rife with rich worlds, dense descriptions, and complex cultures. As a reader (and a writer) I’ve always been fascinated with how other authors explore cultures within the context of the genre. Sometimes, a culture is revealed through a character’s actions or speech patterns; other times, through the way a particular town or setting is described.
In my experiences, the majority of the books I’ve read keep diverse cultures at the background of the story instead of the forefront. Intellectually, I understand why this is. Often, there’s a lot of world to explore and, in the fantasies I’ve read, that means the story matches that as well. Still, I’ve often found my reading has been bereft of the richness of contemporary stories that were firmly rooted in “a” non-European culture in “this” genre. Is that a fault of the industry? No, it just means there’s been a gap in my library that this picky reader hasn’t been able to fill since I first read The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho many years ago.
Now I have.
To understand why Throne of the Crescent Moon is important as a story, I feel I should point out that this tale is a lot like the mythical ouroboros. There’s a beginning and there’s an end, but you can’t quite see the separation of the head and the tail (or the skin and its bones for that matter). Reading this work feels like you’re dropping into a hustling, bustling world that already exists. This, truly, is where the writing excels. This isn’t a story where an inspired cultural iteration is popped in. Every word matters. The fluid, musical style is important to the characters and to the plot. The structure? Equally so, even though it is a traditional sword and sorcery tale, in the sense that there is a quest. The reason why the group must fight together and save the day still boils down to the unique talents they bring to the table, but it’s not the only reason. Friendships do develop over time and while that happens here, there’s a sense of established community and obligation that comes into immediate play. By focuses on a specific town and small parts of the setting, we experience the characterization of its people moreso than we would if the emphasis was on the threat Dhamsawaat faces.
Dhamsawaat is the capital city of a country called “Abassen.” Every element narrated here — from the food, buildings and traffic to the clothing, relationship descriptions, and religious beliefs — is reminiscent of ancient lands where Middle Eastern empires once flourished under the hot sun. The main character, Adoulla, is an unlikely hero and the main focus on the tale. He’s not the plucky young warrior, he’s older and more experienced. This wisdom is often crucial to the progression of the plot and the remaining the characters. This realistic take on the group is refreshing and more realistic because we can grow with characters like Zamia more easily because of their humanity. Even so, each character adds a different aspect to the danger, to the tapestry woven, and to the community. While the idea itself — a cursed villain shrouded in myth — isn’t new, what you’ll be drawn to are the characters who live out life stories of their own.
For these reasons and more, I recommend Throne of the Crescent Moon as an exemplar of pointed, character-driven fantastical fiction that provides us with a sense of wonder about our own world. It is, truly, poetic and worthy of the accolades the book has already received.
Review by Monica Valentinelli
Tags | dark-fantasy