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Engraved on the Eye

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Stories to Captivate the Imagination: Welcome to the worlds of Saladin Ahmed A medieval physician asked to do the impossible. A gun slinging Muslim wizard in the old West. A disgruntled super villain pining for prison reform. A cybernetic soldier who might or might not be receiving messages from God. Prepare yourself to be transported to new and fantastical worlds. The short Stories to Captivate the Imagination: Welcome to the worlds of Saladin Ahmed A medieval physician asked to do the impossible. A gun slinging Muslim wizard in the old West. A disgruntled super villain pining for prison reform. A cybernetic soldier who might or might not be receiving messages from God. Prepare yourself to be transported to new and fantastical worlds. The short stories in this collection have been nominated for the Nebula and Campbell awards. They’ve been reprinted in The Year’s Best Fantasy and other anthologies, recorded for numerous podcasts, and translated into several foreign languages. Now they are collected in one place for the first time. Experience for yourself the original voice of one of fantasy’s rising stars! STORIES IN THIS ANTHOLOGY Where Virtue Lives Hooves and the Hovel of Abdel Jameela Judgment of Swords and Souls Doctor Diablo Goes Through the Motions General Akmed’s Revenge? Mister Hadj’s Sunset Ride The Faithful Soldier, Prompted Iron Eyes and the Watered Down World

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Stories to Captivate the Imagination: Welcome to the worlds of Saladin Ahmed A medieval physician asked to do the impossible. A gun slinging Muslim wizard in the old West. A disgruntled super villain pining for prison reform. A cybernetic soldier who might or might not be receiving messages from God. Prepare yourself to be transported to new and fantastical worlds. The short Stories to Captivate the Imagination: Welcome to the worlds of Saladin Ahmed A medieval physician asked to do the impossible. A gun slinging Muslim wizard in the old West. A disgruntled super villain pining for prison reform. A cybernetic soldier who might or might not be receiving messages from God. Prepare yourself to be transported to new and fantastical worlds. The short stories in this collection have been nominated for the Nebula and Campbell awards. They’ve been reprinted in The Year’s Best Fantasy and other anthologies, recorded for numerous podcasts, and translated into several foreign languages. Now they are collected in one place for the first time. Experience for yourself the original voice of one of fantasy’s rising stars! STORIES IN THIS ANTHOLOGY Where Virtue Lives Hooves and the Hovel of Abdel Jameela Judgment of Swords and Souls Doctor Diablo Goes Through the Motions General Akmed’s Revenge? Mister Hadj’s Sunset Ride The Faithful Soldier, Prompted Iron Eyes and the Watered Down World

30 review for Engraved on the Eye

  1. 4 out of 5

    Terez

    A Refreshing Change Reading this collection of genre shorts by acclaimed author Saladin Ahmed was like slaking a thirst you didn't know you had. It goes without saying the majority of speculative fiction (especially epic fantasy) is told from the perspective of White European traditions. However, these collected stories are brilliantly told through a Middle Eastern cultural lens. They are original, provocative, exotic, and mesmerizing. Engraved On The Eye is a shining testament to the need for the A Refreshing Change Reading this collection of genre shorts by acclaimed author Saladin Ahmed was like slaking a thirst you didn't know you had. It goes without saying the majority of speculative fiction (especially epic fantasy) is told from the perspective of White European traditions. However, these collected stories are brilliantly told through a Middle Eastern cultural lens. They are original, provocative, exotic, and mesmerizing. Engraved On The Eye is a shining testament to the need for the inclusion of more diverse cultural perspectives in speculative fiction. Both fans of the genre, and the genre itself, would be far more richer for it.

  2. 5 out of 5

    K.J. Charles

    Cracking collection of shorts, some fantasy, some SF, some both, mostly with a strong Middle Eastern element. I particularly loved the one about an immigrant actor playing the Evil Arab in yet another racist US movie: the ending is spectacular. Vivid imagination, well written, with a lovely sort of storyteller's lilt to the writing. The highly engaging intro story is linked to the author's full length fantasy Throne of the Crescent Moon so I'm off to that.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Richard

    This collection of stories is very diverse and fascinating. It ranges between genres, settings, eras and cultures. Most stories have references to Islamic mysticism and folklore. Quite a few, dealing with supernatural creatures such as ghuls [sic] and jinn, have a dark aura to them. There are heroic or anti-heroic exploits, highly moral as well as highly amoral characters, martial arts, super-villains, and more. Ahmed is a master of character, plot and narrative voice. The prose is polished and This collection of stories is very diverse and fascinating. It ranges between genres, settings, eras and cultures. Most stories have references to Islamic mysticism and folklore. Quite a few, dealing with supernatural creatures such as ghuls [sic] and jinn, have a dark aura to them. There are heroic or anti-heroic exploits, highly moral as well as highly amoral characters, martial arts, super-villains, and more. Ahmed is a master of character, plot and narrative voice. The prose is polished and practically flawless. I found these stories hugely enjoyable.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Skip

    A collection of eight original short stories by Saladin Ahmed, most of which have references to Islamic mysticism and folklore. Several deal with supernatural creatures such as ghouls and djinn, and have a dark aura. The three best (Where Virtue Lives, Hooves and the Hovel of Abdel Jameela, and Judgment of Swords and Souls) are deeply embedded in Middle Eastern culture and mystique: provocative, evocative, exotic, and mesmerizing. You can even smell the spices...

  5. 4 out of 5

    Arun Divakar

    This was my first book by Saladin Ahmed and was impressive enough for me to decide that I want to read more by him. A delectable collection of short stories that range far and wide in their settings and are almost all of them focussed on the feeling of wonder. As I mostly do with short story collections, here is what I thought of them. Where Virtue Lives : Among all of the stories, this was the meatiest one. Set in a Muslim world, the author had beautiful prose to bring this place to life. Among This was my first book by Saladin Ahmed and was impressive enough for me to decide that I want to read more by him. A delectable collection of short stories that range far and wide in their settings and are almost all of them focussed on the feeling of wonder. As I mostly do with short story collections, here is what I thought of them. Where Virtue Lives : Among all of the stories, this was the meatiest one. Set in a Muslim world, the author had beautiful prose to bring this place to life. Among all the marvels and knick-knacks of the place, we find an aging monster hunter who is tailed by a naïve but talented wannabe apprentice. The first adventure that brings the two together is terrifying and hilarious by turns. 4 stars. Hooves and the Hovel of Abdel Jameela : Set in another far flung corner of the world from the first story, this one was more of a twisted parable. The lesson that kindness pays is taken and bent out of shape by the author by pitting the protagonist in a dire situation. There are some embellishments with magic and a sprinkling of the horrific. 3 stars. Judgement of Swords and Souls : Swashbuckling adventure, court intrigues and betrayals. This was a tad predictable although it can only be read in a feverish pace. 3 stars. Doctor Diablo Goes Through the Motions : What exactly can you do if you are a smart supervillain caught in a world where the only rule is the rule of brawn ? 3 stars. General Akmed’s Revenge ? : Set in a post 9/11 America, this one captures a xenophobic mood through the eyes of the characters. A dark comedy with a hilarious twist in the end. 3 stars. Mister Hadj’s Sunset Ride : A Muslim gunslinger in the wild west who goes up against a dark wizard and a recently turned Zombie ? Yes, please. 4 stars. The Faithful Soldier, Prompted : A post-apocalyptic world with technology playing an interesting role in the life of the very few left. While this did have the potential for expansion to something bigger like a novella, the ending was a tad too predictable. 3 stars. Iron Eyes and the Watered Down World : Three mercenaries in search of a stolen artefact. Here again it left me with a feeling that the author could have expanded more on these story and the world that surrounded it. 3 stars. The feeling that this collection left me with was dissatisfaction for all the right reasons as I wanted more of the world in which these stories were set in. They are full of wonder and magic, terror and mayhem and yet hold an allure like the best of fantasy worlds. Recommended !

  6. 4 out of 5

    Michele

    Highly recommended if you are looking to expand your FSF reading to include non-white-European authors. It's a lovely (and alas, still unusual) experience to read FSF written with very different cultural underpinnings, attitudes, "local color" as it were. These stories, drawing on Middle Eastern folklore, culture, experiences, and locales are steeped in a totally different milieu. The stories are uniformly good, ranging from small villages to big cities, from 'once upon a time' to near-future dys Highly recommended if you are looking to expand your FSF reading to include non-white-European authors. It's a lovely (and alas, still unusual) experience to read FSF written with very different cultural underpinnings, attitudes, "local color" as it were. These stories, drawing on Middle Eastern folklore, culture, experiences, and locales are steeped in a totally different milieu. The stories are uniformly good, ranging from small villages to big cities, from 'once upon a time' to near-future dystopia, from young student Dervishes to fat old ghul-hunters to 21st-century soldiers. My favorite story was "The Faithful Soldier, Prompted" -- its mix of high-tech dystopia and classic quest was compelling, and although a short story doesn't allow much time for world-building, there's a big complicated backstory skillfully implied. I also very much liked "Hooves and the Hovel of Abdel Jameela" with its highly unusual plot and unexpected twists. My favorite character was Hai Hai, the smart-aleck rabbit-person -- I'd love a whole collection of the adventures of her and her two thief-compadres. Makhslood the ghul hunter is a close second; old, fat, his illusions and idealism long gone, he just wants to bask in the sun at his favorite tea shop and eat thousand-sheet pastry (baklava, I am guessing?), but somehow the demons just won't leave him in peace. Two thumbs up, I only wish it had been longer. I look forward to more of Ahmed's work.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Shira Glassman

    Overall a fun collection of SFF shorts, mostly centered on Muslim-flavored stuff but includes other non-northern-European cultures (for example, the MC of one story is a Latino supervillain and another's setting was definitely Asian but polytheistic.) "Where Virtue Lives" takes us back to the MC's of Throne of the Crescent Moon, showing how the young warrior, a pious zealot, learns to appreciate the practical wisdom and especially the compassion of the older wizard who'd the book's star. "Hooves Overall a fun collection of SFF shorts, mostly centered on Muslim-flavored stuff but includes other non-northern-European cultures (for example, the MC of one story is a Latino supervillain and another's setting was definitely Asian but polytheistic.) "Where Virtue Lives" takes us back to the MC's of Throne of the Crescent Moon, showing how the young warrior, a pious zealot, learns to appreciate the practical wisdom and especially the compassion of the older wizard who'd the book's star. "Hooves and the Hovel of Abdel Jameela" is about a healer, nursing a broken heart, who comes to the aid of someone supernatural and is rewarded--although the creepy tinge at the end reminds us that there's no free lunch. "Judgment of Swords and Souls" and "Mister Hadj's Sunset Ride" were a little too nihilistic for me to appreciate them, but I still enjoyed watching the scenes unfold. I especially liked the setup of "Mister Hadj", a cowboys-fight-zombies adventure in which the MC is the illegitimate son of a white woman and a Middle Eastern man. "Doctor Diablo Goes Through the Motions" cracked me up and I would have enjoyed reading more set in that universe. A troupe of supervillains is seated around a boardroom table planning their next caper. Some of it even made sense, but the fun bit of this one is just the setup itself and the things the MC says about it. "Genereal Akmed's Revenge" is not a HAPPY story but it is a very good one. Fantastic piece of fantasy-horror and also a statement about the crappy treatment of Arabs and/or Muslims in the film business. Warning for the MC remembering anti-Semitic things his family told him back home but the story quickly disproves them. The ending is one of those ones that makes you want to grab your calming blanket but hand the author a medal at the same time. "The Faithful Soldier, Prompted" is one of those age-old Faith Stories wrapped up in a post-apocalyptic sci-fi setting, and I am always down for that. (Well, I'm down for faith stories, as long as they don't knife me in the gut for one of my marginalizations. I am not always down for post-apocalyptic. But this one was almost a satirical one, since somehow the idea of having "credit", as in the money kind, had gotten wrapped up even in religious thought.) Also: happy or at least hopeful ending alert! Unless you choose to read it as not, as another nihilistic one, of course ;) "Iron Eyes and the Watered Down World" is the one that takes place in a setting with many cultures and religions, and one of the MC's friends is a female rabbit-warrior who's tough as nails. I have a feeling a lot of people who follow me would agree with me that we'd all read a book about just her! Anyway, he starts out drinking with his warrior buddies -- the rabbit woman and a fighting priest -- but they get unexpectedly waylaid and in the process of solving the story's dilemma his life becomes more complete. (How's that for not giving anything away? :P ) I think I liked this last one the best. Although I keep going back to the clever, haunting ending of the General Akmed story, too. I'm going to give it the second-place prize before backing away slowly ;)

  8. 5 out of 5

    Eric

    I was very impressed by this short story collection from the author of Throne of the Crescent Moon. Only two of the eight short stories were set in the fantasy world of the novel, the first of which being the story of how Doctor Adoulla Mahkslood and Raseed bas Raseed, the two protagonists of the novel, first meet. In addition to being a great short story, it is an excellent introduction to the Crescent Moon universe. The other stories were as engaging as they were varied. But I did have favorite I was very impressed by this short story collection from the author of Throne of the Crescent Moon. Only two of the eight short stories were set in the fantasy world of the novel, the first of which being the story of how Doctor Adoulla Mahkslood and Raseed bas Raseed, the two protagonists of the novel, first meet. In addition to being a great short story, it is an excellent introduction to the Crescent Moon universe. The other stories were as engaging as they were varied. But I did have favorites, namely 'Doctor Diablo Goes Through the Motions', a modern super villain story slightly reminiscent of Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog, but without the singing; 'Mister Hadj's Sunset Ride', a weird western; and 'Iron Eyes and the Watered Down World', a fantasy I would be hard pressed to describe other than mention there were rabbitmen warriors in it, and it lives up to how awesome that sounds. I would love to see more written in all three of these different worlds, as they were so unique and fleshed out, despite their brevity -- and it seems a shame to invent such colorful worlds for such scant use.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Ron

    Really liked. A fresh voice and perspective. The quality was uneven, with the earlier stories being better. A very good read. The Arabian Nights: Tales from a Thousand and One Nights setting as if told by Fritz Lieber.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    Engraved on the Eye is a collection of short fiction by Saladin Ahmed. There’s a couple of stories set in the same world as his novel (Throne of the Crescent Moon). However, there’s also several pieces set outside of that world, covering a broad span of locales and ideas. The first story in the collection, ‘Where Virtue Lives’ is set prior to the opening of Throne of the Crescent Moon, and sets out how the protagonists of that tale first met. Looking at the world from both characters perspectives Engraved on the Eye is a collection of short fiction by Saladin Ahmed. There’s a couple of stories set in the same world as his novel (Throne of the Crescent Moon). However, there’s also several pieces set outside of that world, covering a broad span of locales and ideas. The first story in the collection, ‘Where Virtue Lives’ is set prior to the opening of Throne of the Crescent Moon, and sets out how the protagonists of that tale first met. Looking at the world from both characters perspectives, the narrative accentuates the differences between them very well. The old, cynical Doctor-and-Demon-Hunter stands as a stark contrast to the sword wielding, morally certain dervish. The clashes between their worldviews are evident in this short piece, and in fact it’s the author’s portrayal of these quiet conflicts that makes the text so strong. That said, the conclusion of the tale also indicates to us why the two of them are working together later in their narrative strand – whilst the conflicts between them are many and varied, Ahmed shows us that as a gestalt, the two are stronger than the sum of their parts – performing together what neither could do alone, and being greater thereby. It’s an interesting tale, and has a few things to say about comparative morality – but it’s also a solid adventure story. Next, there’s ‘The Hooves and Hovel of Abdel Jamela’, an exploration of how a court physician, exiled to a distant village, deals with a rather unusual request for aid. Ahmed evokes an intriguing world here, one where the supernatural is at the margins, feeling out of sight, but perhaps not out of mind. The stumbling physician is brought to life by a passion expertly portrayed, and a duty which is never explicitly stated, but lives in the actions of the narrative. The narrative has an element of whimsy to it, a feeling of quiet truth which was a joy to read. ‘Judgement of Swords and Souls’ takes us back into the world of ‘Throne of the Crescent Moon’. And into the environment of the dervishes – sword wielding fanatics with incredible focus. Ahmed gives us a focus in Layla bas Layla, a rare female recruit to the dervishes, and one of their best. She has to deal with aligning her personal moral code to what exists in the dervish institutions, and Ahmed does an excellent job of portraying her troubled state of mine whilst trying to do so. There’s also more than a few swordfights, evidence that the author can sit fast-paced action alongside exploration of a personal dilemma. The fusion of these two elements works perfectly, and makes for a compelling story – by the end, I definitely wanted to hear more of the protagonists’ adventures. ‘Doctor Diablo Goes Through The Motions’ is a piece which works on several levels. On the one hand, it’s taken from the viewpoint of a supervillain. He’s weary, cynical, and his internal monologue is both derisive and scathingly, hilariously, sarcastic about his fellow travellers in villainy. It’s a pleasure to read this view, and it certainly made me chuckle. But underneath this, there’s the character’s plan to reform prisons, an examination of how prejudice places people into a system from which there’s no escape – and the opportunity for a nuanced discussion arises out of the short prose, giving it an intriguing layer of nuance. ‘General Akmed’s Revenge’ , by contrast, carries a quieter payload of the fantastical. It’s effects are largely felt in the edges of the protagonist’s worldview, rather than more overtly. But the narrative, one of acceptance and ostracism in America, feels like a scalpel taken to the issue of race relations in the US. It’s a piece of sharp prose, given a weight of experience, and the voice of the protagonist feels raw and honest. It was in some ways a difficult read, and certainly a complex one – but also fundamentally honest, and captivating. ‘Mister Hadj’s Sunset Ride’ blends the familiar tropes of the US western with something of a more Arabesque nature. There’s a story here about a journey to deal with an outlaw and his unpleasant sons. It’s a good story, too. You can feel the hammer of the sun on hardpan, the slow creak of horses on the move across a wilderness. But there’s also a story about identity, the more culturally assimilated narrator working alongside a member of the preceding generation. Ahmed already negotiated this terrain in the preceding story, but here it’s done more subtly – in the asides the narrator throws in, the way actions of the older man throw him from his stride. It’s lovely to read – and the supernatural elements, which are finely laced throughout the story, tie these elements together into a cohesive whole. ‘The Faithful Soldier, Prompted’ takes us out of the subtly fantastical, and into a near future Egypt, shattered by a war of ideology. There’s some great ideas fluttering in the background here – I particularly enjoyed the idea of crusaders against credit interest. The Cairo seen briefly in the story is alive, but clearly battered, if not broken, and Ahmed does a great job of making the city feel lived in. At core though, this is a personal story, of a man on a journey which he has undertaken for the sake of love. His torments, trials and tribulations are brought to live, and the reader empathises and agonises alongside him. It lacks something of the environmental flavour of previous stories, but has a sense of the personal, of being genuine, which made it a great read. ‘Iron Eyes and the Watered Down World’, the final story, is a bit of an odd one. It begins with three companions, adventurers in a fantasy world – each with their own problems, supporting the others. And each of those characters has something about them, an aura of weariness, somehow tied to a core of vitality, which made me keep turning pages (that one of them is a murderous rabbit-woman is a bonus). The plot rumbles along nicely, and slowly the kind of story that is being told changes. This story works both as a straightforward adventure, and as a meditation on family, and was quite enjoyable on both levels. Overall, Engraved on the Eye is a superb collection of Ahmed’s work. There’s a range of genres approached here, and the stories aren’t afraid to ask big questions in between the personal, or even between swordfights. The voice at play here is a confident, compelling one, and the collection as a whole was a pleasure to read.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    This is an excellent and somewhat unique collection of science fiction/fantasy tales by Saladin Ahmed. I would recommend this to sci-fi fans who are looking for something a little different.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Matt Gilliard

    One of the most unique new voices in the genre belongs to Saladin Ahmed. His debut novel Throne of the Crescent Moon was the very first debut novel I reviewed. So when I heard that Ridan Publishing was releasing a collection of Ahmed's short fiction, I was understandably excited. With a low price and an immediate release date, I snatched it up and blocked out some quality time with the e-reader. Fans of Throne of the Crescent Moon will be pleased to know that Ahmed chooses to open this collection One of the most unique new voices in the genre belongs to Saladin Ahmed. His debut novel Throne of the Crescent Moon was the very first debut novel I reviewed. So when I heard that Ridan Publishing was releasing a collection of Ahmed's short fiction, I was understandably excited. With a low price and an immediate release date, I snatched it up and blocked out some quality time with the e-reader. Fans of Throne of the Crescent Moon will be pleased to know that Ahmed chooses to open this collection with another story of Dr. Adoulla Mahkslood and Raseed bas Raseed. Where Virtue Lives tells the tale of the venerable ghul hunter's first meeting and subsequent adventure with the young dervish. Ahmed does an excellent job of showcasing the vastly different world views of these two signature characters while demonstrating the wisdom of their partnership. Fans of the series will be right at home, but Ahmed also provides just enough background detail to reveal the rich setting that is Dhamsawaat. As always, Ahmed has a moral in mind. Raseed's revelation that the virtue he prizes so highly might come from unexpected sources is the heart of this glimpse into the early days of our heroes. The collection continues with two more stories set in the world of The Throne of the Crescent Moon. The first, Hooves and the Hovel of Abdel Jameela tells the story of a court physiker who is temporarily exiled from the Caliph's court to the backwaters of the kingdom because of his own impertinence. While in Beit Zujaaj, he hears of a hermit of questionable parentage who lives on the outskirts of the village and is the subject of all manner of small town suspicion and gossip. When he is called upon to help the hermit's ailing wife he is faced with something out of nightmare that promises him his heart's desire and a return to court besides. This entry reads like a fairy tale, and is rich with Ahmed's signature style. He definitely adds a new layer to the flavor of his most famous setting. The final tale in a familiar setting is the excellent Judgement of Swords and Souls. Set in the Lodge of God, home of the blue garbed Dervishes, this story tells the tale of Layla bas Layla. She has come into conflict with many of the Shaykhs due to her choice to wear a red scarf handed down by her deceased mother against the traditions of her adopted family. Layla is caught in a power struggle between the current head of the order and those who would weaken his position, but chooses to stick by her oath to wear the scarf despite the objections of those who would persecute her for breaking an unwritten and obscure dictum. The clash that follows changes both the direction of the Lodge and the path of Layla's life and I, for one, hope that this character makes an appearance in the sequel to Throne of the Crescent Moon. Ahmed's choice to reveal more detail about the organization that shaped Raseed bas Raseed was inspired, giving us an insight into a beloved character while adding yet another layer of depth to the setting and hopefully another character as well. The rest of the collection are unconnected to the world that has brought Ahmed such critical acclaim, but were all published previously. Some were even contenders for both the Nebula and Campbell awards. These accolades are well earned. These stories, perhaps more than Throne of the Crescent Moon, reveal more about the author and his thoughts on his place as an Arab-American dealing with a society that preaches acceptance on one hand and yet is so full of judgement and prejudice on the other. In Doctor Diablo Goes Through The Motions, Ahmed tells the story of a super-powered criminal who's observations on his fellows and adversaries is full of equal parts razor-sharp sarcasm and astute commentary on racial stereotypes and the criminal justice system. While I doubt this character could support a longer story, I found myself loving his wit and weariness and was saddened by the necessary brevity of his tale. Given recent events on the global stage, I found General Akmed's Revenge? to be the most thought provoking tale in the collection. This story explores the dichotomy of an immigrant's love/hate relationship with his adopted home, shining a spotlight on the prejudices and stereotyping that is all too present in American society. As a Southerner, I'm all too familiar with the themes of this story. While I certainly don't share the reprehensible traits presented, the stark focus of this story made me more than a little uncomfortable. And that is the true strength of this story, which deftly balances commentary with unexpected humor. More than anything else contained in this volume, General Akmed's Revenge? begs to be read. My favorite story of the collection was the surprising mash-up of Arab flavor and the Old West, Mister Hadj's Sunset Ride. Reminiscent of the Charles Bronson flick, Red Sun, Ahmed tells the story of a bounty hunter from 'Araby' and his young partner who is on the trail of a trio of deadly outlaws who hide their villainy behind a thin facade of Jesus-loving clap-trap. It wouldn't surprise me at all if this story didn't inspire the adventures of Raseed and Abdoulla. And like its more famous cousin, this story is full of magic, menace, and monsters. I was left wanting much more of this setting. The final two stories in the collection, The Faithful Soldier, Prompted and Iron Eyes and the Watered Down World, center around devotion and importance of family. The Faithful Soldier, Prompted is the story of man who believes he is being led to a cure for his ailing lover by a long obsolete piece of in-bedded technology from his youth in the military. Besides being an interesting take on the 'ghost in the machine' concept, this story is at its heart a tale of the lengths one man will go to to protect the love of his life. Ahmed explores prejudice again here but takes a different tack, zeroing in on the bigotry that exists within racial bounds. This didn't impact me as much as the previous story, but is nonetheless right on the money. Ahmed ends with a ghost story wrapped in an intriguing fantasy setting in Iron Eyes and the Watered Down World. This story follows a trio of adventurers as they try to recover a stolen memento from the world weary widower who is the wounded heart of their band. While the intensity of the protagonist's need to recover his cherished possession is all too understandable, the motivation for the theft seems arbitrary until the very end, where Ahmed wraps it all up nicely with a life changing revelation. After the hard-edged, thought provoking subject matter of the proceeding stories, it was a welcome relief. All in all, I have rarely read a collection of shorts that was as well polished and satisfying as Engraved on the Eye. Both fans of Throne of the Crescent Moon and those unfamiliar with Saladin Ahmed would be doing themselves a disservice in passing up on this engaging and thought-provoking collection from one of the rising stars of the genre. More Genre Reviews at http://www.the52review.blogspot.com

  13. 4 out of 5

    Denise

    Captivating, imaginative, and refreshingly different from the "usual" medieval/European-inspired fantasy fare, this collection of fantasy and sci-fi short stories was a very promising introduction to an author I'm excited to read more from.

  14. 4 out of 5

    David(LA,CA)

    A collection of eight short stories: Where Virtue Lives : A prequel to the author's Throne of the Crescent Moon. The Doctor and the Dervish meet and share their first adventure together. As someone that enjoyed the novel, this was a highlight, and worth the price of this book. Hooves and the Hovel of Abdel Jameela : I'm not exactly sure what this is supposed to be. An attempt at horror? Certainly the main character reacts as if he's encountering mind shattering events, but there didn't really f A collection of eight short stories: Where Virtue Lives : A prequel to the author's Throne of the Crescent Moon. The Doctor and the Dervish meet and share their first adventure together. As someone that enjoyed the novel, this was a highlight, and worth the price of this book. Hooves and the Hovel of Abdel Jameela : I'm not exactly sure what this is supposed to be. An attempt at horror? Certainly the main character reacts as if he's encountering mind shattering events, but there didn't really feel like there was any tension. Judgement of Swords and Souls : The other story set in the Crescent Moon universe. No connections to the rest of the writing done in the world, except maybe to add some depth to a background element perviously mentioned. Part of me hopes that we may see the main character again at some point down the line. Doctor Diablo Goes Through the Motions : I'm a sucker for superheroes, so this one hit me right in the weak point. A supervillain boardroom meeting. I loved how it parodied so many tropes of the genre in such a short amount of time. And short is definitely a way to describe this one. I wish it had been a little longer. General Akmed's Revenge : What is this I don't even. I want to say it's a modern day slice of life story that makes a u-turn into fantasy on the second to last page. At which point, it just ended. For me, the weakest story of the collection. Mister Hadji's Sunset Ride : Urban Fantasy of the Crescent Moon. It felt very similar to those works, except with a coating of American bounty hunters and criminals. And the "praise God to cast spell" that I've seen some complain about in reviews is lessened by having the view point character be unfamiliar with the language used. The Faithful Soldier, Prompted : Cyberpunk-ish scifi with a little mysticism. Some interesting world building that doesn't come off quite right. Some how I can't see the tech level described here being reached in a world where the apocalypse seems to have been triggered by a global credit disaster. But the story is still interesting. Iron Eyes and the Watered Down World : A fable. There's a strong sense of this story having a moral that the author is trying to get across. Of the author's fantasy works, this one feels to me like the one with the most unique setting. Over all, it's pretty good. What I felt were the weaker stories of the collection didn't last long enough to make me wonder why I was still reading.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Paul Weimer

    Engraved on the Eye is a collection of short fiction by Saladin Ahmed, who is probably best known to readers for his debut novel Throne of the Crescent Moon. In Engraved, we get a number of pieces from him in a variety of universes. In Where Virtue Lives ,we witness the first meeting between two of the main protagonists of Throne of the Crescent Moon, Rasheed and Doctor Adoulla, as the former’s arrival in Dhamasawaat coincides with a ghul problem the Doctor is dealing with. In Hooves and the Hove Engraved on the Eye is a collection of short fiction by Saladin Ahmed, who is probably best known to readers for his debut novel Throne of the Crescent Moon. In Engraved, we get a number of pieces from him in a variety of universes. In Where Virtue Lives ,we witness the first meeting between two of the main protagonists of Throne of the Crescent Moon, Rasheed and Doctor Adoulla, as the former’s arrival in Dhamasawaat coincides with a ghul problem the Doctor is dealing with. In Hooves and the Hovel of Abdel Jameela, we trade his fantasy universe for a story that seems to be set in the Classic age of the Baghdad Caliphate. Abdel is a physician who has been reassigned to a remote small town, and is requested to perform a rather unexpected bit of doctoring for the local hermit. Judgement of Swords and Souls is the second and final story of the collection set in the universe of Dhawasawaat, as we get a look into the Lodge of God, and how a young woman, Layla bas Layla, struggles with the politics of the Order with her own promises and beliefs. The story doesn’t make it clear if it takes place before or after the events in Throne of the Crescent Moon In Doctor Diablo goes through the Motions, a supervillain discovers that even he has to deal with the mundane and quotidian problems of being a person of color. General Akmed’s Revenge? is the story of a small time actor, Muhammad Mattawa, whose typecasting as an Arabic villain leads to a funny Lady and the Tiger ending. Mister Hadj’s Sunset Ride brings a Muslim gunslinger to the Wild West, with more than a touch of the Weird West to the tale. The Faithful Soldier, Prompted, the only science fiction story of the collection, gives a slice of life into a future world dominated by nanotechnology, implants, and one man’s abiding faith. Iron Eyes and the Watered Down World is the anchor of the collection and my favorite. Ahmed creates a secondary fantasy world and characters,. that, if he wanted to, could certainly alternate with his world of Dhawsawaat. Its a realm that feels more than a bit like a take on Mythic China, as a group of wandering adventurers comes face to face with a problem from their past. If you’ve been reluctant to try Throne of the Crescent Moon, or are one of those who prefer their fantasy in a shorter format, Engraved on the Eye is an excellent opportunity to get to know the work of Saladin Ahmed. Fans of Throne of the Crescent Moon will discover more about that world, and proof that he is far from a one-trick pony.

  16. 5 out of 5

    G33z3r

    An enjoyable collection of novelettes and short stories by Saladin Ahmed. The first story, "Where Virtue Lives", is set in the same world as and involves some of the same characters as Ahmed's novel "Throne of the Crescent Moon". It tells the story of how ghul-hunter Adoulla met dervish Rasheed prior to that novel. It's interesting but not earth-shaking. The next two stories are also set in the same world as the "Throne of the Crescent Moon", but in different places and involving different charact An enjoyable collection of novelettes and short stories by Saladin Ahmed. The first story, "Where Virtue Lives", is set in the same world as and involves some of the same characters as Ahmed's novel "Throne of the Crescent Moon". It tells the story of how ghul-hunter Adoulla met dervish Rasheed prior to that novel. It's interesting but not earth-shaking. The next two stories are also set in the same world as the "Throne of the Crescent Moon", but in different places and involving different characters. "Hooves and the Hovel of Abdel Jameela" is modestly interesting, but I very much enjoyed "Judgment of Swords and Souls", and I wouldn't mind seeing its dervish protagonist, Layla, show up again in other stories (or even one of the "Throne of the Crescent Moon" sequels.) "Doctor Diablo Goes Through the Motions" shifts gears entirely, being a superhero comedy story, detailing the meeting of a secret Society of super-villains. It's quite funny (and quite short) and also pointed. "General Akmed’s Revenge" is also a contemporary comedy satire, maybe just a wee bit too pointed. "Mr. Hadj’s Sunset Ride" shifts gears entirely into a American Western with fantasy elements. Didn't really work for me (maybe I've read too many Westerns.) "The Faithful Soldier, Prompted" mixes futuristic postapocalypse sci-fi with a bit of fantasy (I think). Mildly interesting. "Iron Eyes and the Watered Down World" returns to fantasy in an alternate world with an Arabian flavor. (It might be the same world as the "Throne of the Crescent Moon", but not necessarily.) It's the second-longest story of the collection and well worth a read. In short, the generally satisfying collection. "Judgment of Swords and Souls" was my favorite, with "Iron Eyes and the Watered Down World" a bit behind, "Doctor Diablo Goes Through the Motions" providing excellent comic relief, and "Where Virtue Lives" being engaging for fans of "Throne of the Crescent Moon" is both a prequel and a chance to spend some time with its two most important characters again.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Suzanne

    I really enjoyed the first two stories, "Where Virtue Lives" and "Hooves and the Hovel of Abdel Jameela." Vivid descriptions, charming (and refreshingly jovial) characters, and the stories have a wonderful classic feel about them. The third, "Judgement of Swords and Souls," takes place in the same world, and while I liked it, I felt myself skimming. I felt bad about this, because I really like Ahmed's writing, but something about it just wasn't grabbing me. The above are apparently tied to Thron I really enjoyed the first two stories, "Where Virtue Lives" and "Hooves and the Hovel of Abdel Jameela." Vivid descriptions, charming (and refreshingly jovial) characters, and the stories have a wonderful classic feel about them. The third, "Judgement of Swords and Souls," takes place in the same world, and while I liked it, I felt myself skimming. I felt bad about this, because I really like Ahmed's writing, but something about it just wasn't grabbing me. The above are apparently tied to Throne of the Crescent Moon, which I'm now very eager to read. But then, the fourth story, "Doctor Diablo Goes Through the Motions" is about supervillians. It has nothing to do with the previous stories or their world and the style is quite different. It went from having passages like "Two and a half bars of thousand-sheet pastry sat on his plate, their honey and pistachio glazed layers glistening in the sunlight that streamed into Yehyeh's teahouse." to "You'd think that Overlord, with his ill-gotten dictator industrialist billions, could afford some padding for these damn chairs. But as my Tio Cesar would say, assholes never shit flowers." Um, okay... Seems like a lot of folks really love that Doctor Diablo story, but for me, the switch in style and setting was so jarring that I don't think I recovered. The rest of the stories were fine, but none really hooked me. I do appreciate Ahmed's versatility, however, and if you're looking for a collection of his stories, you'll definitely want to pick this up. I think I was just expecting something more cohesive in terms of a short story collection.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    So many anthologies, whether a collection by one author or a mix of many, are an uneven mix of brilliance, mediocre, and just plain puzzling. This is one of the most uniformly high quality collections I've read in some time. While I'd stop short of "brilliance", the stories are all engaging, well-written, lovely little baubles. I also want to avoid the word "exotic", which has far too much Orientalist baggage. But many of these stories play with settings, legends, and characters of Middle Easter So many anthologies, whether a collection by one author or a mix of many, are an uneven mix of brilliance, mediocre, and just plain puzzling. This is one of the most uniformly high quality collections I've read in some time. While I'd stop short of "brilliance", the stories are all engaging, well-written, lovely little baubles. I also want to avoid the word "exotic", which has far too much Orientalist baggage. But many of these stories play with settings, legends, and characters of Middle Eastern origins which are underutilized by most Western spec fic writers and so have a welcome freshness. We have a complex modern twist on the classic magic lamp, Islamic soldiers in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, high fantasy featuring learned doctors from Baghdad and idealistic dervishes. I loved the classic-style tales of the apprentice warriors who discover that the real world is more complicated than they had bargained for, but I also appreciated the somewhat more unorthodox stories, such as "Dr. Diablo Goes Through the Motions", about a cynical supervillain, and "Mr. Hadj's Sunset Ride", a creepy Western featuring a mysterious foreigner. There's an interesting tone, overall, which is too world-weary to fully indulge in happily-ever-afters, but too wise to give up into dystopia. Endings are morally shaded and frequently ambiguous, but nonetheless satisfying. Overall, it's a solid bunch worth reading. I think my only regret was that there were not more. Clearly, I need to keep my eye out for more Ahmed in the future.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Sunil

    After having enjoyed Throne of the Crescent Moon , I was hungry for more by Saladin Ahmed, and, as luck would have it, here was a short story collection that even featured some stories set in the Throne world, including the first meeting of the Doctor and his apprentice. Another Throne story is one of the best in the collection, and I hope to see the main character in the books proper at some point, as I believe her story has only just begun. By and large, Ahmed's strength is in his mood and at After having enjoyed Throne of the Crescent Moon , I was hungry for more by Saladin Ahmed, and, as luck would have it, here was a short story collection that even featured some stories set in the Throne world, including the first meeting of the Doctor and his apprentice. Another Throne story is one of the best in the collection, and I hope to see the main character in the books proper at some point, as I believe her story has only just begun. By and large, Ahmed's strength is in his mood and atmosphere, crafting new worlds unlike the typical fantasy fare. The stories all feature non-white protagonists, and many have a Middle Eastern flair. You'll find ghuls, jinns, and, um, a rabbitwoman. While I must admit that I didn't really love any one story—although "Doctor Diablo Goes Through the Motions," a very short story about supervillains that has a different tone from anything else in the collection, is cute and successful because of its brevity—I found each one pretty interesting and different. Ahmed certainly has a thing that seems to be found in a lot of his stories—Arabic influence and focus on religion, for instance—but, in that sense, Engraved on the Eye is a perfect way to get a taste of his voice as an author.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Greg

    This is an excellent use for your days coffee money and will entertain much longer then anything at this price. Saladin's art as a storyteller shows clearly in his award nominated short fiction. These stories range from sword and sorcery to superhero, well villain actually, with some western and magical realism for spice. His Arabic/Muslim heritage forms a lot if the atmosphere for his work but so does his obvious love of superheroes, fantasy adventure and complex if broadly drawn characters. T This is an excellent use for your days coffee money and will entertain much longer then anything at this price. Saladin's art as a storyteller shows clearly in his award nominated short fiction. These stories range from sword and sorcery to superhero, well villain actually, with some western and magical realism for spice. His Arabic/Muslim heritage forms a lot if the atmosphere for his work but so does his obvious love of superheroes, fantasy adventure and complex if broadly drawn characters. Two of the tales are set in the world of his excellent Throne of the Crescent Moon and give a great taste for the world. His western Mr Hadj's Last ride you can check out on Beneath Ceaseless Skies if your still on the fence - it's the story that introduced me to his work and left me anxious for more. These are stories filled with clever ideas, relatable characters who are motivated by duty and love and not all have happy endings but ever one of them makes me think about what comes next.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Janet

    This is a delightful collection of fantasy/speculative stories set in a wide variety of locations: a Middle East where holy men and learned doctors encounter ghuls and demons, a future where a former soldier receives uncanny guidance from a glitchy computer implant, the American Old West, modern Hollywood, and more. While some of the tropes are generally familiar (the last story reads like it could have come out of a particularly imaginative Dungeons & Dragons campaign -- and I have a great This is a delightful collection of fantasy/speculative stories set in a wide variety of locations: a Middle East where holy men and learned doctors encounter ghuls and demons, a future where a former soldier receives uncanny guidance from a glitchy computer implant, the American Old West, modern Hollywood, and more. While some of the tropes are generally familiar (the last story reads like it could have come out of a particularly imaginative Dungeons & Dragons campaign -- and I have a great fondness for Hai-Hai, the female rabbit-folk warrior) the Middle Eastern and Islamic elements, and the high quality of the writing, made the collection fresh for me. My pleasure in a work of fiction is usually strongly correlated with my pleasure in spending time with the characters, and these characters were definitely a pleasure to spend time with. Overall they were clearly drawn, very different from each other, and made me care about them.

  22. 5 out of 5

    April Steenburgh

    "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 "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.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Daniel

    A short take: I loved Ahmed's mash-up of magic and the Middle East. The first two stories, in particular, blew me away with their adventurous stories and novel ideas. This collection is worth every page. More thoughts: Reading these stories reminded me of my desire to branch out and pick up more writers who represent cultures and perspectives outside the norm (i.e. white, affluent and self-appointed arbiters of cultural worthiness). It's so easy to keep picking up books written by men who represent A short take: I loved Ahmed's mash-up of magic and the Middle East. The first two stories, in particular, blew me away with their adventurous stories and novel ideas. This collection is worth every page. More thoughts: Reading these stories reminded me of my desire to branch out and pick up more writers who represent cultures and perspectives outside the norm (i.e. white, affluent and self-appointed arbiters of cultural worthiness). It's so easy to keep picking up books written by men who represent Western values and ideas.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Frances

    This one was honestly hovering between three and four stars for me, but "Mister Hadj's Sunset Ride" was lovely, and tipped the scales. (Yes, it's a weird Western. Yes, I am not an impartial judge about weird Westerns. Hush.) "Hooves and the Hovel of Abdel Jameela" and "The Faithful Soldier, Prompted" were probably my next favourites; lovely writing, clean plotting, and good world-building. And "Doctor Diablo Goes Through The Motions" seemed both better and sharper now than when I first read it in This one was honestly hovering between three and four stars for me, but "Mister Hadj's Sunset Ride" was lovely, and tipped the scales. (Yes, it's a weird Western. Yes, I am not an impartial judge about weird Westerns. Hush.) "Hooves and the Hovel of Abdel Jameela" and "The Faithful Soldier, Prompted" were probably my next favourites; lovely writing, clean plotting, and good world-building. And "Doctor Diablo Goes Through The Motions" seemed both better and sharper now than when I first read it in Strange Horizons; I think I better appreciate its context now.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Drew

    I would have given this collection of short stories 3 1/2 stars had that been an option. The short stories are well written and enjoyable to read. The author was developing characters. One of the short stories had several of the main characters he included in Throne of the Crescent Moon. Glad I read it.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jeff Wyonch

    This is an outstanding collection of short work, meant as a 'teaser'. You can currently get this for almost nothing at a lot of digital booksellers, and it's well worth the price of admission. The stories range over a broad range of cultures, time periods, and technology, but the sense of humor and fun ties them all together well. Do yourself a favor and pick this one up.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Phil

    Great little collection of short stories. A couple relate to Saladin Ahmed's novel "Throne of the Crescent Moon". Most of them have a middle-eastern tone to them, that makes them feel fresh. If you like Swords & Sorcery you will enjoy this. It is also free on Amazon!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Betule Sairafi

    Although there was a guy quite ridiculously named Abdel Jameela, seeing my friends and family and jinn in my favorite Engleezy genre was the best time I've ever had! I can't die before I read all of this guy's stuff... inshallah.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    Really solid collection! Very glad clifdisc recommended it to me. The first two short stories left me wanting more, so I'm glad to hear there is a book in the setting. Great to read a voice with a unique perspective on a genre I love!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Dave Wagner

    Definitely hit the spot. A series of unique, well-written fantasy short stories. I'll definitely be reading Ahmed's full-length fantasy novel "The Throne of the Crescent Moon" soon...

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