The Thin Executioner
By: Darren Shan
What happens when you combine an executioner’s son with a slave? A pair that goes through absolute Hell with each other to get to their goal: Tubaygat, an ancient mountain that supposedly holds a god called Sabbah Eid. Darren Shan’s thrilling adventure novel, The Thin Executioner is a true tale of adventure, life-changing experiences, and an eye opening plot line that brings to light how harsh the world actually can be, even to someone that is treated like royalty in his home city of Wadi.
I have read many of Darren Shan’s novels, but The Thin Executioner has topped my favorites by him. The style of writing, the kind of world it is placed in, and the character development throughout the pages is absolutely extraordinary. At the beginning of the novel we are introduced to Jebel Rum, the youngest son of Wadi’s executioner. Not only is he the youngest, he happens to be small and frail. His older brothers are large, buff men while Jebel remains thin and unworthy to wield his father’s axe once he retires.
After being publicly shamed by Rashad Rum, Jebel’s father, Jebel is determined not only to regain his pride but to win the mukhayret, the multiple level battle to determine who takes Rashad Rum’s axe. He knows he cannot do it alone so Jebel sets out on an excruciating voyage with a slave, Tel Hesani. As the journey begins Jebel treats Tel Hesani with as little respect as he possibly can, almost disgusted about having to be within ten feet of the man. As I read I had no faith in Jebel and his ability to show compassion. I felt bad for Tel Hesani. He had to spend a year, if not more, with this stubborn brat of a boy that, quite honestly, Tel Hesani could wipe off the map if he really wanted too. There was a part of me that figured Tel Hesani would kill Jebel, but after a few more chapters and a few more close encounters the two had, I came to realize that Tel Hesani wouldn’t have the heart to kill Jebel even if he wanted to. The two men were complete foils of each other. There was not a single similar gene in their bodies. They came from two different cities, two different worlds. Jebel was treated like royalty while Tel Hesani lived the life of a slave. The one trait anyone would think Tel Hesani would have, he didn’t. Tel Hesani didn’t have the need to get revenge on those that wronged him in his life; he had no desire to do such a thing, to hurt another human being.
At one point the two are separated and Jebel is forced into a life that Tel Hesani once lived. His world is changed. Jebel Rum is no longer royalty. He is a slave to his masters, and he does anything they desire of him, even grave robbing. Jebel’s life is changed forever, and he becomes empathetic. He becomes human. Jebel grows feelings, a heart, an ability to feel anything except greed and selfishness. At this point I gained a little hope for Jebel and his companion. Maybe they could get to Tubaygat in one piece.
Along their journey the pair met different types of people and encountered many levels of cleanliness in several different cities. At a stop in one of the most disgusting cities in the country of Makhras: Shihat was a “godforsaken eyesore” as Darren Shan stated. There they met Master Blair and Master Bush, seemingly innocent traders looking for friends in the wrong place. But in Makhras, trusting and friendships can mean the end of your freedom, or your life.
The character development between Tel Hesani and Jebel Rum is extraordinary. The reader’s thoughts, especially on Jebel, can be shaky, if not, in a way, pissed off at him for being a bratty child… because, well he is. Who can blame him, though? He comes from a world where he is treated like royalty because his father is the executioner. Anyone would act like a brat if they lived the life of a millionaire without the million dollars. But when you combine Jebel Rum with Tel Hesani, you get a pairing that is not only uncommon, but is downright silly. Tel Hesani, the slave, and Jebel Rum, the rich brat, travelling together to Tubaygat seems like a disaster waiting to happen. That’s where the character development comes in. Jebel’s expiriences on the journey changes him for the better; it creates a new version of him that is, quite honestly, a million times better. This change is subtle, but noted within the novel in a way that makes you stop, re-read, and then keep going because the only thoughts going through your head are: “did Jebel just say that? Think that? There is no f*cking way”. There is a way. Jebel Rum has the ability to change, and he does.
There was something about the plot line that got to me. I don’t know if it was because it was set in an open world, or if the actual “plot line’ was as bumpy as you could get, but I loved it. Each city they encountered was different, and I can only imagine that took a lot of time to think of. There are so many different cultures and beliefs in the novel that it seems unreal. While you’re reading you feel as if you’re being transported to Makhras to accompany Jebel and Tel Hesani in their journey. There wasn’t anything that I disliked about the way this book was set up. Everything flowed all too well.
The Thin Executioner is a thrilling adventure novel about an unlikely pair battling all odds to find a place that might actually not hold the God, Sabbah Eid. There are friendships, betrayals, love, falling in love, falling out of love, and realizing what is most important in the world.
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