Christopher Campbell's Mess | 01 January 2011 | Christopher Campbell

I can't count the number of 8th grade students who want to read edgy and creepy novels with a heaping of horror thrown in for good measure. For the past few years I've been recommending Darren Shan's CIRQUE DU FREAK series. I have had not one student, male or female, return the book unimpressed.

 

While I haven't read but the first in the LORD LOSS series, I was the public library the other day and came across THE THIN EXECUTIONER on the 'new release' shelf. The US hardcover is on the left, while the much more impressive UK cover, sure to make a kid look twice, is on the right.

 

This is a stand alone book featuring Jebel Rum, the skinny, unimpressive youngest son of Rashed Rum, who will be retiring from his role as executioner in one year's time. Publicly humiliated by his father, Jebel rashly decides to go on an epic quest frought with danger to petition the fire god, Sabbah Eid, for inhuman powers so he can return home and prove his worth. But he cannot go alone. He must bring with him a slave to sacrifice at the feet of Sabbah Eid. If Tel Hesani volunteers, Jebel promises to return home and set Hesani's family free. 

 

Shan creates a memorable landscape of danger and intrigue, populating the area with colorful secondary characters--some good, some quite evil. And while I enjoyed to an extent the first 290 pages (overlooking some rather convenient plot development), there was a 70 page diversion where Jebel and Tel Hesani are forced to travel with the cult-like figure Quasr Bint that slowed the pace to a frozen-molasses crawl. By the time the two main characters are free of Bint, the novel just couldn't get back its mojo.

 

I have read on various sites that the ending to THE THIN EXECUTIONER is surprising. I'm not sure what book the reviews are referencing. However, if purely for worldbuilding and the secondary characters, Shan has done a remarkable job.

 

Has anyone else read this novel? I'd be interested in hearing other voices.

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