Booklist | 10 August 2010 | Daniel Kraus

Though its basis on The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn provides a potential inroad for educators, the nonstop action and violence make Shan’s latest best suited for reading with no strings attached. It is the saga of young Jebel Rum, the weakest son of the best executioner in the land of Wadi. When Jebel is publicly shamed, he embarks upon a quest to mythical Tubaygat, where legend holds he will be granted invincibility if makes it through alive and sacrifices a slave. Tel Hasani volunteers for the suicide role in exchange for his family’s freedom, and the duo’s relationship commences with continual indignities thrown at the slave by his privileged master. By its very nature, the episodic design requires readers to repeatedly refresh their interest level; thankfully, Shan leaves no stone unturned, no lesson unlearned, and no head unsevered. Mad cults, ghostly reapers, grave robbers, and more provide the trials that shape Jebel’s developing awareness of the world around him. A gripping, enveloping adventure about, of all things, the power of kindness.

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