Monday, May 23, 2011

The Thin Executioner by Darren Shan

Genre: Fantasy; Horror; Young Adult

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

How I acquired this book: I purchased it.

Goodreads Blurb: In a kingdom of merciless tyrants, Jebel Rum's family is honored as royalty because his father is the executioner. But Rashed Rum is near retirement. And when he goes, there will be a contest to determine his successor. It is a contest that thin, puny Jebel has no chance of winning.

Humiliated and ashamed, Jebel sets out on a quest to the faraway home of a legendary fire god to beg for inhuman powers so that he can become the most lethal of men. He must take with him a slave, named Tel Hesani, to be sacrificed to the god. It will be a dark and brutal journey filled with lynch mobs, suicide cults, terrible monsters, and worse, monstrous men. But to Jebel, the risk is worth it. To retrieve his honor . . . To wield unimaginable power . . . To become . . . The Thin Executioner.

Inspired by The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, international bestselling master of horror Darren Shan takes readers on a thrilling, fast-paced journey into a nightmarish world where compassion and kindness are the greatest crimes of all.

My Review: I'm not a horror fan, but the premise of this book drew me in: Jebel setting out on a brutal quest with the slave he must sacrifice at the end of it. Why would the slave go along? We find out early on that Tel Hesani goes willingly; he accompanies Jebel because his death will mean his family's freedom. It's an intriguing set up.

Given that premise, I don't think it's too spoilery to say that I figured the two men would somehow reach the end of the quest, and that Jebel would have to decide whether to go through with the sacrifice or not. I was right--but there's a twist I didn't see coming!

I have a few quibbles with this book: Shan can get preachy, and the names of two of the supporting characters, Bush and Blair, suggest that he felt compelled to throw his political opinions in. But the setting here suggests a Middle-Eastern, dark fantasy world--those Anglo names are ridiculously out of place! Another problem was the gruesome violence of the story. It was so over-the-top that I just found myself growing numb. (But, again, I'm no horror fan.) Lastly, while I loved the scenes that Jebel and Tel Hesani shared, whenever the two men were apart I found the story dragging.

Overall, though, this is an excellent read. For me the heart of the book is the growing and sometimes frustrating relationship between Jebel and Tel Hesani. There's a glimmer of friendship between them as Tel Hesani becomes something of a father figure for the bratty would-be executioner, but that doesn't mean Jebel is ready to reconsider his entrenched prejudices. This uneven relationship more than makes up for the times when Shan veers between being too gruesome and too preachy.

Available on Kindle: Yes. You can find it on Amazon here.

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