For one of my teaching gigs, I’m at an Islamic college in my nearest big city, and it’s been a rewarding and enlightening experience already. My boss has asked if I wanted someday to teach a Muslim-American literature course, and I obviously said yes, I would. That day, when I got home, I did a ton of Googling and Goodreads digging. I’m fairly widely read, but I wanted to see what scholars and publishers counted as Muslim-American, so that I could be fair in my selection of books that I would theoretically teach from. Several sources recommended Saladin Ahmed’s The Throne of the Crescent Moon, and since it was science fiction—an innovative and unexpected genre—I thought I would start here.
Adoulla is a lifelong ghul hunter, using sacred spells to dispel their forms and neutralize their evil. He has taken on an apprentice, Raseed, who is a dervish and a devout practitioner of faith. Together, they are in the process of hunting down a ghul who murdered a little boy’s family when they come upon a young woman who can take the lion-shape. Zamia is Protector of her family, a role normally given to men, when tragedy strikes her tribe, and she lives only to avenge them. Together, the trio stumble upon a dangerous new enemy, one that seems to fall beyond their reach and stands to endanger the already tenuous balance in the city that Adoulla so loves.
As I was reading the book, I began thinking, “I think this is a solid three-star book for me.” I was not disabused of that first impression, and I think I can explain why. What’s intriguing about the book is its setting and literary context. It’s set in an Arabic country (presumably) and relies heavily on Muslim faith and religious tradition, which is novel and cool. Unfortunately, the characters and plot are terribly predictable, and the dialogue is a little too paint-by-numbers to be realistic or convincing. It is a fast read, though, and something a little different than what I’ve read before, so I do think it’s worth the read. I’ll be interested to see what else Ahmed writes.
Cross-posted to my blog.