4.5 stars: Ahmed's debut is a welcome new voice in fantasy. Beginning with a short, dark prologue of torture which introduces us to a powerful, evil raiser of ghuls known as "the gaunt man" and his jackal-faced assistant, we are then introduced to our atypical hero, Dr. Adoulla, ghulhunter: set in a teahouse rather than an inn; set with cardamon tea and a book of poetry rather than stew and a tankard of ale; set with a 60-year old, portly, tired protagonist who longs for retirement rather a group of young adventurers longing for fame and treasure. Haunted by a lingering dream of his beloved city run through by a river of blood -- a vision introduced in more sinister detail in the prologue -- Adoulla nonetheless finds the strength to... stand up from his tea and face the day and set off on one more ghul hunt.In terms of the narration, Gigante's characterizations really are something here, from the voices of demonic jackal-ghuls to the somewhat pompous and sarcastic Adoulla, to a far-flung cast of characters from cross-eyed restaurateurs to the regal Falcon Prince, beggars, on and on. The principal narration is performed in a tone which fits both the dark and yet somehow also, in its way, playful content, as Ahmed's abiding love for heroic fantasy and D&D as source material are evident. I'm looking forward to more in this series.