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“Y’all ain’t got to believe me for it to be the truth” (‘Engraved on the Eye’, pg. 183).
But you will want to believe- in aloof bounty hunters who sing to stone and ribald ghul hunters who care far more than they let on.
From the city of Dhamsawaat Ahmed made familiar through ‘Throne of the Crescent Moon’, to a meeting of super villains as viewed by a rather jaded member, ‘Engraved on the Eye’ is an absolutely enthralling collection of the familiar mixed with the exotic and the strange. Readers are introduced to a physician in exile asked to assist in a faith shattering case, a female Dervish who splits her lodge over a promise made to her mother- the fascinating, terrifying, and the beautiful all rolled into one.
If you are looking to dip your toes into Ahmed’s writing, definitely give this collection a try. They are short stories with meat- you will think and feel and you will not want to stop turning pages.
Doctor Adoulla Makhslood wants to grow old drinking tea in his beloved city of Dhamsawaat. Unfortunately God has other ideas. For Adoulla is a ghul hunter, a servant of God against the Traitorous Angel, and something dark and dangerous is stalking Dhamsawaat. Accompanied by Raseed, a holy Dervish, and Zamia, a Badawi tribeswoman who has been gifted with the ability to take a lions shape, Adoulla will struggle through the rebellion and death that threaten his home.
I am exceedingly fond of Ahmed’s narrative style. The book flows like the best of the old tales, accessible and entertaining with a honed edge of danger that kept me turning pages. It stands out from much of the other fantasy I have read recently, it’s people and setting forming something atypical of the genre and it’s carriage a good part Arabian Nights.
Adoulla is a wonderful character- fond of luxury, sharp of tongue, and willing to do everything in his power to keep his people safe. Even Raseed, a rather pious and stilted fellow to begin with, flows and evolves with the story, growing on the reader. Zamia was the hardest for me to grow attached to- a bit too stubborn and set in what felt almost like an archetype of a girl as opposed to a living breathing entity, but that let up as I read on and she grew with the story.
Fast paced with scathing wit and monstrous danger, Throne of the Crescent Moon is a wonderful book, and I look forward to more by the author.