The Thin Executioner by Darren Shan; Review

by Madeleine Rex

Title: The Thin Executioner

Author: Darren Shan

Published: August 1st, 2010 by Little Brown

Number of Pages: 496

Rating: 3/5

Review Sent to Little Brown*:

This book is one I feel very unsure about. I was satisfied by the ending and the beginning was nicely paced, but the middle was slightly tedious. I couldn’t focus as I read, and oftentimes I felt that the story was being told to me, as opposed to being shown. In the end, The Thin Executioner is a surprisingly heartwarming and inspiring tale, with its many frightening moments thrown in to spice things up, but its delivery could have been more upbeat and faster-paced. I think the book will appeal to people who take a great interest in human nature and believe that anyone can change.


In a kingdom of merciless tyrants, Jebel Rum’s family is honored as royalty because his father is the executioner. But Rashed Rum is near retirement. And when he goes, there will be a contest to determine his successor. It is a contest that thin, puny Jebel has no chance of winning.

Humiliated and ashamed, Jebel sets out on a quest to the faraway home of a legendary fire god to beg for inhuman powers so that he can become the most lethal of men. He must take with him a slave, named Tel Hesani, to be sacrificed to the god. It will be a dark and brutal journey filled with lynch mobs, suicide cults, terrible monsters, and worse, monstrous men. But to Jebel, the risk is worth it.

To retrieve his honor . . .

To wield unimaginable power . . .

To become . . .

The thin executioner

Inspired by theAdventures of Huckleberry Finn, international bestselling master of horror Darren Shan takes readers on a thrilling, fast-paced journey into a nightmarish world where compassion and kindness are the greatest crimes of all. [From Amazon]


It’s always hard to write reviews that aren’t as positive as you’d like them to be. This is one of those reviews. The concept of this book, the character, setting, etc – they all could be smashed together to make something special and great. The Thin Executioner is special. Great, however? Not so much. I nearly gave it a 2/5, actually. And there were three factors that spoiled the book a bit for me:

  1. As I said, Shan seemed to tell instead of show… a lot. I kept wondering how Jebel/Tel Hesani/[insert other person here] did whatever it was that they did. With a book that spans the length of time The Thin Executioner does (a year), I can understand the need to skim over things, but at times it did get irritating, and I felt that certain things that should have been skimmed weren’t and others that shouldn’t have been were. It made for a bit of confusion or boredom at times.
  2. I can handle novels in third person. Third person is great (as is first). The only problem with third person is that your readers are further detached from your character’s head. In this book particularly, I felt the characters were very distant. It wasn’t like Harry Potter or The Mortal Instruments books, where you are still very near the character. I had more of a problem with this when the story was lagging. Typically at times like that, I would rely on the characters and their voices to carry me through, but these characters weren’t always there for me. (Did that make any sense whatsoever?)
  3. The length of the book and the pacing. Most of you know that I can take rather uneventful books. Some characters I love so much that reading every minute of their day would fascinate me. However, as I didn’t connect very well with the main characters of this book, the parts where the story was lagging were kind of tedious. The book felt longer than it was, probably because I had to struggle through most of the middle.

Although there were only three major issues, they meant a lot. However, this book was special, and the world that Jebel lives in is so fascinating.

I loved that I couldn’t tell whether the book was set in the future, the past, or in a totally different universe. The cultures, religions, cults, social levels, etc. where very interesting and very different… but familiar. I could clearly see how easily our world could turn into theirs or theirs into ours. I loved observing the different ways of life, the beliefs of the various people, and the politics. I think that lots of people will be intrigued by these facets of the book.

Plus, the book is creepy. It’s disturbing. At one point, Jebel and Tel Hesani meet up with a religious cult with very “out-there” beliefs that, honestly, scared the crap out of me. If and when you pick this book up, prepare for odd people and a few moments that can be categorized as both gory and frightening.

Tel Hesani was a great character. I admired, respected, and completely understood him. He’s the mentor who preaches without seeming like he’s preaching. I enjoyed his side-comments, his views on the world and religion, and the example he set for Jebel. I think that everyone who reads this book will like him by default (well, almost everyone, because we know that never actually happens. There are probably people who hate Dumbledore… Okay, maybe not Dumbledore, but you know what I mean)

One thing this book got spot-on was character development. I loved watching Jebel grow, and it was particularly enjoyable when he didn’t realize he was changing, or when he tried to cover up something nice that he’d said. It was all very believable and heartening.

Overall, I enjoyed the book. The end (last 100 pages or so) made up for most of the troublesome parts in the middle. I’d recommend this book to people who are intrigued by foreign cultures and beliefs. I’m happy that I read this book because it really does give you a lot to think about.

*Thanks, Little Brown! You’re great.

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