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Literature / The Thin Executioner

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Departing from his fantasy and horror roots, Darren Shan returns with The Thin Executioner. Set in a medieval Qurac, the book is notionally inspired by The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

The story follows Jebel Rum, the youngest, small and least favoured child of the executioner of the city of Wadi, who holds a position in society second only to the Um Wadi's leader. His father announces he will be stepping down as executioner in a year's time and that his two oldest sons will be competing in the competition to claim the title. By omitting Jebel from his announcement, he publicly disgraces him and, in a rash moment, Jebel decides to undertake a quest that hasn't been completed in living memory: to journey to the sacred mountain of Tubaygat and petition the fire god Sabbah Eid to give him strength and invincibility so he can enter the competition, beat his brothers, claim the hand of the Um Wadi princess and become the thin executioner.

As part of the requirements of the quest, he enlists the aid of the slave, Tel Hesani, who agrees to accompany Jebel and ultimately be sacrificed to Sabbah Eid in exchange for Jebel having his family freed from slavery upon his return. Together, the two set off on foot across the ancient land of Makhras to reach Tubaygat and summon Sabbah Eid. Along the way, they run into the many, diverse tribes of Makhras, including the cannibalistic Um Biyara and their depraved leader Qasr Bint, as well as the enigmatic Master Bush and Master Blair.


This book provides examples of:

  • Bald of Evil: Qasr Bint's head is shaven bald.
  • Beautiful All Along: In a rare example not featuring any change of appearance. After becoming the executioner, Jebel has his choice of any virgin in Wadi and chooses "the most beautiful girl in Wadi"; not the stunning but shallow Wadi princess Debbat but her dowdy servant girl, Bas.
  • Character Development: Jebel starts out as arrogant and abusive towards Tel Hesani, regularly threatening to beat him to death. Ultimately, though, when the moment comes, Jebel chooses not to sacrifice Tel to Sabbah Eid, even though Tel is mortally wounded.
  • Chess with Death: A variation. When Jebel is picked up by the Um Wadi god of death, he convinces said god to let him return to life in exchange for a friendly conversation when next they meet.
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  • Curbstomp Battle: The Um Biyara get their asses handed to them by the tribe of bat worshippers once they reveal the bats can aid them in battle. Only Qasr Bint and a few of his followers survive.
  • Dark Messiah: Qasr Bint is a particularly gruesome example. He may not even believe in his own religion from what Jebel deduces.
  • Dead Guy Junior: Three guesses what our hero's eldest's son's name is? Tel Hesani Rum.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: The only punishment for crime in Wadi is execution. At least until Jebel becomes the new executioner and introduces prisons.
  • God in Human Form: Sabbah Eid Subverted. The human form is actually her true form.
  • Happily Married: Jebel and Bas at the novel's end.
  • I am a Humanitarian: Qasr Bint and his followers eat their own when supplies are low.
  • Improbable Weapon User: Master Bush and Master Blair wield what essentially amounts to a simple magic trick to lethal effect in a bar fight.
  • Invincible Hero: Jebel is on a quest to become one.
  • Kill It with Fire: Mess with Sabbah Eid? Put one toe out of line with her and you will get fried until only ashes remain.
  • Karmic Death:
    • Qasr Bint, the sadistic Dark Messiah who put entire tribes who don't join them or are "irredeemable" to death and tortures Jebel and Tel Hesani on their travels, tried to push his luck with Sabbah Eid, and paid for it dearly.
    • A more clear cut example with Bush and Blair, who are lured right into the waiting jaws of the Rock Spirits by Jebel, who had been enslaved and exploited by the two.
  • Made a Slave: Jebel is enslaved by Bush and Blair. It rather sours him on the concept of slavery as a whole.
  • Satellite Love Interest: Debbat Alg, the princess Jebel wants to take to wife when he become executioner. This is rather intentional, as Debbat's shallowness and pettiness plays a big role.
  • Secret Test of Character:the pilgrimage to Sabbath Eid is actually given a big twist: those who travel there and sacrifice someone have proven themselves to be corrupt, greedy and ruthless. Those are the ones Sabbah Eid kills...those who shows themselves to be virtuous she blessed. The entire legend is a trap to ensnare the evil and empower the good.
  • Quest for a Wish: The premise of the story is that Jebel wants to undertake a quest to visit the goddess Sabbah Eid, who can grant power to those who make sacrifices to her.
  • Take That!: The sadistic, self-centered, greedy, amoral villains are called Bush and Blair.
  • The Ferry Man: All gods, demons, deities, anthropomorphic personifications etc. of death have a boat for ferrying souls to the afterlife.
  • Theme Naming: Almost everything in the book is named after people and places in Jordan.
  • These Hands Have Killed: Jebel feels guilty and disgusted after he kills Master Bush and Master Blair.
  • The Unfavorite: Jebel gets significantly less attention from his father and his public shaming by him prompts him to go on the quest.


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