FORGOTTEN BOOK: THE EXECUTIONESS by Tobias S. Buckell, 2011
This is the 129th in my series of Forgotten Books.
This is the second half of my previous review. Paolo Bacigalupi and Tobias S. Buckell teamed together as two science fiction writers to write a sequence of two linked fantasy novellas. The Executioness is Buckell’s book while The Alchemist by Bacigalupi was last week’s Forgotten Book.
Last time, I noted that it was interesting when science fiction writers decide they want to do some fantasy work. Frequently it just does not work or is not very original. This week it does seem to work and quite well.
As in The Alchemist, the land is being slowly overrun by bramble, a poisonous weed which reacts negatively to magic use. Whenever someone uses magic, bramble proliferates somewhere else. The Alchemist dealt with efforts to destroy the bramble. The Executioness deals with people living within the land.
Tana, a middle aged woman, works in a butcher shop. Her father is the local executioner who is slowly dying. One day he is unable to perform an execution. If he fails to respond, someone else will get the job and money that Tana needs will be lost. Tana knows how to do the deed from watching her father and her work in the butcher shop. She assumes his role, puts on his robe and hood, and proceeds to perform the execution of a criminal. Badly. Her first blow is off and results in hideous pain to the criminal and it takes several more tries before the deed is complete. The Mayor, who has ordered the execution, loves this aspect, finding the old quick painless beheadings to be dull.
Shortly thereafter she is attacked by thieves and her children are stolen by religious fanatics. While she defends herself well she is knocked unconscious. When she awakes, she is in a traveling caravan of traders. The caravan is going toward the spot where her children appear to be being taken so she follows.
The Paikans, the northern raiders attack the caravan and Tana fights them off by herself. She finds that the story of her defense grows daily as people embellish it. The Paikans are fierce warriors and they outnumber the warriors in the caravan. They are also the religious fanatics who stole her children. Tana has a plan to recruit the women whose children have been taken and to train them to fight. It takes months but soon they have an army of women ready to fight an army of men.
This was certainly a different story than what I was expecting. But I quite enjoyed it. Just slightly longer than The Alchemist, the two make an interesting pair. They don’t try to tell the same story or cover common ground. They merely share the same background world. I would like to see more novellas of a similar sort.
Like The Alchemist, The Executioness is available as a kindle download for $2.99. The hardbound copy was published by Subterranean Press for $20.00 At 102 pages, this is not a great value per pages. But the quality of the story makes it a good buy. Copies of both books are out at the usual outlets. Check them both out.
Series organizer Patti Abbott hosts more Friday Forgotten Book reviews at her own blog, and posts a complete list of participating blogs.