The Thin Executioner is the story of 12 year old Jebel’s journey from spoiled, arrogant, closed minded child to someone much different. We meet Jebel at a public execution which is normal for his town. The executioner is revered above all others, and Jebel happens to be the executioner’s son. Jebel has two brothers who are much larger, and older than Jebel, and his father shows obvious favor to the older boys. Jebel’s society is a very harsh society with slaves and harsh punishments (execution) for even the slightest offense. At one of these executions, Jebel’s father stands up in front of the crowd and publicly humiliates Jebel without even realizing it.
Jebel vows to go on a quest to the great fire god so that he can be made invincible by him. To accomplish this he travels hundreds of miles on foot with no one but a slave taken to sacrifice to the god once he reaches his mountain. Shan got his motivation from Huckleberry Finn and as you read The Thin Executioner the similarities are easy to see. While the idea is not new, the book is excellent. Shan builds complete societies from scratch, including languages, customs, and religions. The people that Jebel meets along the way teach him much about both himself and the world he inhabits.
When I first began reading The Thin Executioner, I wasn’t sure I would be able to finish it; Jebel’s society is extremely violent, and Jebel himself is a product of that society so he also is violent. Even with the violence and Jebel going back to his roots over and over, it was hard to put this one down once I got into the book. His thoughts and actions at the beginning of the book made me want to execute him myself. As he makes his journey, he grows, and the ending of the book was one of the best I’ve ever read. This book has a very solid 5 stars from me. The writing is excellent, and the story is better than excellent.