I’m late to the party checking out Saladin Ahmed’s Throne of the Crescent Moon which given my love for the work of Howard Andrew Jones’ Chronicles of Sword and Sand is even more egregious an error than you might expect. However, unlike Jones’ work Adhmed takes several big steps away from the historical choosing instead to center his story a bit more loosely. The Crescent Moon Kingdoms of Ahmed’s novel are familiar but not explicitly defined as part of our world and borrowing just enough from history to lend the story an air of credibility and tangibility. The story of Throne of the Crescent Moon centers on ghul hunter Doctor Adoulla Makhslood and features a strong cast of supporting characters including the dervish Raseed, the shapeshifting Zamia, the mage Dawoud, and the alchemist Litaz. A series of seemingly unrelated events see the Doctor uncovering the fact that recent murders in the city of Dhamsawaat may be more than they appear and that something ancient, evil, and dark is stirring beneath the sands.
I feel like I buck the trend a bit in the world of Forgotten Realms fiction. Paul S. Kemp’s Erevis Cole is by far my favorite character and Kemp’s handle on dialogue is superb. The Godborn continues Wizards of the Coast’s Sundering event following Salvatores The Companions. I wasn’t a huge fan of The Companions as a novel, it felt far too transitory to make for a good stand alone read, and thankfully The Godborn doesn’t follow in that tradition. The Companions hinted and The Godborn confirms that the The Sundering is mostly a background tie-in that doesn’t really get expounded on in the plot. Indeed, in The Godborn the major event felt a bit more tertiary to the proceedings than even the previous novel. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as Kemp’s handle on characterization really brought to the needs and desires of his characters to the fore; a fact which definitely helped in getting things rolling.
Robert Jackson Bennett’s American Elsewhere was an interesting and complex novel that blended horror, science fiction, and the notion of the American Dream into a cohesive and entertaining whole. City of Stairs is Bennett’s first foray into more “traditional” second world fantasy. The city of Bulikov, the titular City of Stairs, was once not only infused with the magic of the gods but home to one as well. That was before the oppressed slaves from a distant land managed to find a way to kill gods and transformed themselves into a world spanning empire. With Bulikov’s patron diety dead the city’s magical nature is a thin spectre of what it once was. When a regional imperial judge is found suddenly dead the mousy, middle aged Shara Divani is sent to investigate.
Prince of Fools runs parallel, at least chronologically, to Mark Lawrence’s Broken Empire trilogy. Lawrence is close to the top of my list of new(er) fantasy writers and the Broken Empire trilogy is one my favorite reads probably in the last decade so seeing a new title is exciting news. Prince Jalan is a bet far down the line from the throne currently occupied by his grandmother The Red Queen. Jalan spends his time shirking responsibility, running from conflict, and basically spending all of his considerable effort in looking out for the most important person in the world: himself. The Red Queen summons her lineage to hear the testimony of several prisoners who claim that war is coming and hear the Jalan first sees the Northman named Snorri ver Snagason. Jalan thinks little of Snorri’s tale of the dead returning to plague the living and see him for what he: potential profit in the fighting pits. Jalan’s selfish decision to suborn Snorri’s freedom sets forth a chain reaction of sort that snags the young prince and the stoic Northman in events both dangerous and dire.