I finished Darren Shan‘s “The Thin Executioner” in a matter of days! It’s a rollicking adventure, meant for kids, but as with all Shan’s works (“The Vampire’s Assistant” aside), it is hardly that! The first chapter itself has heads rolling literally as the Executioner does his job and the vile people cheer at the ‘honour’ of the job.
The story, as the website states, is about:
Jebel Rum is a thin, scrawny boy. His father is the famed executioner in the city where they live. When Jebel is humiliated in public, he sets off on a quest to gain great strength and invincibility. If successful, he will be able to compete in a gruelling contest to prove himself and replace his father as the wielder of the axe. Failure, on the other hands, means certain death.
To win the favour of a fire god, Jebel must make a human sacrifice. He finds a slave who is willing to pay this grisly price, and the pair set off on a trek through lands deadly and unwelcoming. In the course of their travels they will encounter hatred, bigotry, slavery, death and a whole lot more. It is the nightmarish adventure of a lifetime…
And an adventure it certainly is. It gets more and more gruesome as the chapters advance, especially the Um Biyara, those horrible self-sacrificial zealots.
Shan states that Jordan inspired the fantasy lands featured in the book. Having been to Jordan, I can imagine it so, with many names sounding familiar, and many landscapes described depicting the orange and yellow sandstones of the country. More than anything though, Shan’s “The Thin Executioner” is social commentary on the death sentence, on bigotry and religious fascism, on xenophobia, hardly the stuff of kids’ books, but good to start them early, I guess.