Darren Shan’s latest offering departs from his previous works in a number of ways. Firstly, in its format as a stand-alone novel and, secondly, as a departure from the horror genre his faithful followers have come to know and love him for. This is a fantasy narrative that has been – self-confessedly – influenced by both Philip Pullman’s The Firework- Maker’s Daughter and a recent trip to Jordan.
It is a coming-of-age quest, akin to The Lord of the Rings, yet it lacks the epic quality of such a book. The inward journey of growth experienced by the protagonist leads him to question all his core values. However, the insights gained are overly moralistic and a little heavy-handed at times. Shan also makes use of parody in this novel. The characters Master Bush and Master Blair are sleazy, underhand, cruel men who portray themselves as worldly businessmen. Do the names remind you of anyone?
This is a well-written and generally well-paced text. Although pared back, violence is still evident – but it is very much contextualised. The love interest provides more of a distraction, rather than adding another dimension to the plot, especially since the character of the princess is so odious. Overall, The Thin Executioner shows the diversity of its author, particularly Shan’s ability to deliver something fresh and new to his readers.