The Thin Executioner, by Darren Shan (whom happens to me one of my all time favourite authors) is a book I believe Shan released last year. It’s really strange writing about Darren Shan as an author, when you’ve read the whole of his ‘Saga of Darren Shan’ which features himself as a main character. Most people know Shan for his two large series; the Demonata and the aforementioned Saga. The Thin Executioner (TTE) is a one-off, standalone novel not related to either series. It’s nice, in a way, to have something totally new from one of your favourite authors which doesn’t relate to your previous readings.
Jebel Rum is the executioner’s son. The trade of the executioner is one of the noblest and most respected position in the city, and the contest for it is rough. A day comes though, when Jebel’s father, Rashed Rum calls a speech after an execution and names the date of his retirement. In this speech, Rashed names his two eldest sons, J’An and J’Al, but not Jebel, whom is the runt of the family. This rejection of Jebel is as disowning him, and of the highest disrespect to Jebel. The only way to secure the position of the executioner is to win the mukhayret, a competition of strength and endurance. Knowing he has no chance in completing this, Jebel sets out to find a way he can, and takes upon himself the quest to Tubaygat, to petition the fire god Sabbah Eid!
The plot of TTE is for the most part simple, although there are some enjoyable twists and turns along the way. The simplicity of this adventure compared to Frodo’s, or Eragon’s suits the book, for to draw out a long string of events would detract from the urgency of Jebel’s mission. The book is quite a light read, and an enjoyable one too. The book may look black, and Shan be names ‘Master of Horror’ for a reason, but this is not as normal. The book really does have a happy ending, and I enjoyed it! I am a sucker for an adventure where not all goes to plan. Of course, not all does go to plan, but in a way that suits the change in character. Whilst the book is not huge, Shan does a good job of making the adventure seem like a long, and not an easy journey. Jebel and associate travel through many lands both hostile and friendly, and make both enemies and friends along the way. It’s enjoyable that the bad guys do get their comeupance, and the hero gets the girl (perhaps not the one you’d think, though). There’s a really nice sense of fulfilment to the book, and it definitely left me smiling. No, I wasn’t lusting for more, for book closed at a nice point in time, and the things that followed after, though highly noble acts, are not the deeds of legend.
There are not a huge number of characters in TTE, and this adds to the ‘small world’ feel that I think Shan has been aiming at. The fact that it’s ‘just a job’, and not really a nice one to us, but it means to world to this one boy who will do anything to achieve success. Shan does really well with Jebel Rum as a character, and I don’t feel he’s missing any personal aspects. We can see Jebel beginning to doubt all that he has been taught and told in his relatively short life, as he begins to see and experience things outside of his day to day life. In this way, there is a strong message of self actualisation as Jebel sees the world in a true light and not the status quo of Wadi. This is helped by the slave Tel Hesani whom Jebel has hired as a sacrifice. Tel Hesani does not feel like a fool, but more of a guide to Jebel as he stumbles through the world. I really enjoyed reading about Shan’s characters, as I always do. Master of Horror or otherwise, Shan is a master of modern literary writing. His characters are always brilliant, and always seem to grow and progress as they move through his books. In a way, this is why the characters of Demonata and SODS are so brilliant, because we can spend so much time with them and learn to understand their motives and what drives them.
I really enjoyed TTE, and if your reading style is anything like mine I think you will too. It isn’t an epic adventure, and not something that will last you for a few weeks as it climaxes to epic proportions. It’s a nice read that will probably last you a day or so depending on how much free time you have.
It’s a 7/10 from me. An enjoyable read that ate up a few hours, but not an epic lay.