This is actually one of my boyfriend’s books. He’s a big fan of Darren Shan and he recommended I read this when I asked which book I should read next. I always assumed that Darren Shan was for teenage boys and that it wouldn’t really interest me so I had stayed away from Shan and other similar writers. In realising that fantasy was my favourite genre, I’ve been reading a lot more of it and exploring the works of many different fantasy writers.
The book is about Jebel, the third son of an Executioner in the fictional Wadi. He is disgraced as his father leaves him out of a speech to all watching that only his two other sons will compete in a competition for the position of Executioner, called the Mukhayret. Shamed, he goes on a quest with a slave Tel Hesani, whom he will have to sacrifice, to ask the fire god, Sabbah Eid, for invincibility so he can win the competition and become the new executioner.
What I liked most about this book, and same goes for most fantasy books, is the way the Shan has created this vast world for the story. As we’re taken through the world we get the travel through different landscapes and see different cultures. I especially liked the um Khathib who lived in harmony with the animals of the swamp they live in.
It’s always amazing to me how writers can just create whole worlds with various cultures and climates and histories all in their head and be able to communicate it to others.
It was interesting to travel in this world through Jebel’s eyes. To find our about different ways of living and religions. I liked how it was used as a way of changing Jebel. He was so stubborn, believing he was better than most. But the journey and seeing everything made him realise that not everyone lives the way he does and that one way is not better than any other, they’re just different.
The only problem I have with books about adventures is that they’re all adventure but no aftermath. Jebel goes on the journey, which takes 33 chapters (out of 38) spanning almost a year. He gets all the way to Sabbah Eid and gets back home in a matter of days via a network of underground tunnels. The whole aftermath feels somewhat rushed. 33 chapters adventure vs 5 chapters aftermath. I want to know more about the Mukhayret and Jebel’s time as executioner.
I had the same problem with The Hobbit. The whole adventure was described in the most detailed and the end was like ‘…and then he went home with some gold.’ But what about the journey back? What happened after?
But on the other side of this, you could say that the adventure is the most important bit, especially in Jebel’s case as he underwent a massive personality change. He went from a snooty, stubborn, self righteous boy, stuck in his ways especially those considering slaves, to a mature open minded man.
It’s most certainly a good book and it read a lot like it would be enjoyed very much by younger readers. I know I’ll most definitely be reading more Darren Shan books in the future, especially since my boyfriend has a lot of them!