Reading Challenge: Nebula Nominees Update #2

It’s time for the second update to my Nebula finalists reading challenge. In this one I’ll be talking about Saladin Ahmed’s Throne of the Crescent Moon and Caitlin R. Kiernan’s The Drowning Girl.


Throne of the Crescent Moon

Throne of the Crescent Moon, a debut novel, is very much a plot-driven adventure fantasy. Set in a Middle-Eastern flavored secondary world, it draws easy comparisons to the Arabian Nights and Dungeon and Dragons type quests. It’s a fun read, but I couldn’t help but feel during the entire thing that I was not the target audience. I’ve got nothing against adventure fantasy, but it isn’t really something I seek out, and while I left the book satisfied, I’m not sure I’d want to read more in the series.

All of that is very ambivalent and wishy-washy, I’m afraid. So let’s spend a minute to talk about what I did like about Throne of the Crescent Moon. The novel centers around Adoulla Makhslood, one of the last of a group of mystical ghul fighters. The first surprise of the novel came when I learned Adoulla is about sixty years old—how often do older characters act as the central protagonists in fantasy and sci fi? It was a neat surprise, and in fact three of the five central characters are older, which I thought was really cool.

Adoulla’s apprentice, Rasheed, was the other aspect of the novel I really enjoyed. On the face of it, he’s a very rigid, devout character, but he has a lot of empathetic internal struggles that gave him more dimensions. Plus, his flustering relations to the opposite sex were downright adorable.

Ultimately, however, Throne of the Crescent Moon just felt a bit too predictable and action-heavy for me to really love it. I give it 3 stars.


The Drowning Girl

Caitlin R. Kiernan’s The Drowning Girl is the story of Imp, a schizophrenic woman struggling with her perceptions of reality and confused memories of an encounter with a dangerous woman that jeopardized her relationship with her girlfriend and her own sanity. It’s an utterly startling first person narrative, told with lots of repetition and circular themes. And it goes almost without saying that Imp is utterly unreliable, and when you finish the book you are left with a lot of questions about what really happened.

The Drowning Girl is a difficult book, but it hit me where I live. Perhaps it is just a function of the fractured narrative, but the longer  the book went on, the more I kept finding weird parallels to incidents in my own life and feeling like Imp was a reflection of me, even though she is emphatically nothing like me. Kiernan repeatedly uses the word haunted, and the book certainly is that. It’s a deft psychological experiment that really gets underneath your skin.

My fascination with Imp got me over the more difficult aspects of the novel, and I feel like it’s one I definitely need to revisit in the future. In fact, the only thing I didn’t really like about the novel was the kind of fugly typography. But as they say, never judge a book by it’s cover! 5 stars.

Only one more update to go in this challenge! Then I’ll have to think of something new to tackle. If you have any suggestions, or want to talk about these books, feel free to do so in the comments!


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