Sunday, March 25, 2012

"Throne of The Crescent Moon"

Saladin Ahmed was born in Detroit and raised in a working-class, Arab American enclave in Dearborn, Michigan.

He holds a BA in American Culture from the University of Michigan, an MFA in Creative Writing from Brooklyn College, and an MA in English from Rutgers. His poetry has received several fellowships, and he has taught writing at universities and colleges for over ten years.

His short stories have been nominated for the Nebula and Campbell awards, and have appeared in Year’s Best Fantasy and numerous other magazines, anthologies, and podcasts, as well as being translated into five foreign languages.

Ahmed applied the Page 69 Test to Throne of the Crescent Moon, his first novel, and reported the following:
Well, huh. As it turns out, page 69 of Throne of The Crescent Moon is both a representative and atypical moment in the novel.

It's representative because it's dedicated to depicting the city of Dhamsawaat, my sort of Lankhmar/medieval Baghdad hybrid, and the setting for the great bulk of the action in Throne. A number of reviewers and readers have described Dhamsawaat as being one of the main characters of the novel. and I'm inclined to agree.

The atypical part here is that the King of Cities is being seen through the eyes of a desert tribeswoman, the teen werelioness Zamia, who has just entered Dhamsawaat for the first time. Before we get to this scene we spend a good forty pages in the head of the old Dhamsawaat native Adoulla watching, smelling, and listening to the Jewel of Abassen's festivals, traffic jams, and executions.

And yet, even in this, perhaps there's something representative: Allowing the reader to see the same scene and setting through different sets of eyes - allowing them to walk the same streets in different shoes - is a technique I use a fair amount...

From page 69: was terrifying. Men’s and women’s scents bled together with a thousand others, and countless people darted in and out of her peripheral vision.

How could she scent out enemies in a crowd like this?

“There are so many people here!” she said without meaning to.

“You should have seen it on our way out of here!” the old man bellowed. He turned to Raseed. “We’ll get home twice as quick, I think.”

Zamia had trouble imagining the streets being any more crowded. Veiled Rughali women lined the street, grinding sweet-smelling spice with pestles the size of war clubs. Girls in gemthread half-robes walked arm-in-arm with soft, wealthy-looking men. Two boys led small goats along the edge of the crowd. She even saw two men wearing the camel calf suede of Badawi tribesmen. She avoided their eyes, but they seemed more interested in the city itself than in the odd sight of a young tribeswoman alone in the Jewel of Abassen. Zamia tried to ignore all of the beast- and people-scents as best she could—the sights were confusing enough.

A hard-faced man jumped in her path. Zamia tensed for a fight, weighing the risks of taking the shape in this unfamiliar place. The man, smelling of deceit, shook a leather cup and screamed about triangle dice. Before Zamia could do anything, the Doctor elbowed the man away, spitting something about rigged games of chance. The man bowed mockingly and turned to his next potential player.

Again she resisted the urge to turn on her heel and run at lion-speed back into the desert. But she thought of her father, who had been to Dhamsawaat once in his youth. This gave her strength—If Nadir Banu Laith Badawi had visited this monstrous place and lived to tell the tale, surely his daughter could honor his memory by doing the same. Thoughts of her father and of his fate filled her with increasing resolution. She reminded herself that the path to vengeance— the only thing she lived for now—moved through this sandstorm of a city and its colorful carpet of…hundreds of people? Thousands? She did not have
words for the number of people who must live in such a place.

They continued down the street slowly, the press of the crowd preventing them from moving any faster...
Learn more about the book and author at Saladin Ahmed's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue