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The Executioness by Tobias S. Buckell
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The Executioness

by Tobias S. Buckell

Series: Khaim (2)

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After Tana's father and husband are killed and her children taken by raiders, she goes on a one-woman mission to regain the remnants of her family. Her courage and will inspire others, and soon she comes to the attention of an army commander. He tells her that they have to wait the raiders out, but Tana is impatient. She raises an army of women, armed with peasant weapons (and the occasional arquebus), and they march on the raiders' city.

I really wish this had been twice as long, because there's so much material here that I wish could have been expanded upon, or presented with more subtlety. Even in a bare-bones style like this, it's a good, engaging story, especially with Buckell's trademark of excellent action scenes.

My one quibble with this book is actually with the illustration. The original inspiration for this book was Maureen McHugh's mention of the lack of middle-aged female protagonists, and Buckell spends a good number of pages emphasizing that she's older and has more than her fair share of scars and muscle. She spends the entire book chopping soldiers apart with her axe. And yet. All of the illustrations portray a woman with slender, unmarked twigs for arms and an unlined face. Art fail. ( )
  wealhtheowwylfing | Feb 29, 2016 |
This novella takes place in a world where the use of magic has had dire consequences. Whenever someone uses magic, a deadly, unstoppable, invincible plant called the bramble feeds off the magic and begins to grow. Not only is bramble taking over the world, but it is also deadly. The plants are covered with sticky filaments that contain a deadly venom that is absorbed into the skin when touched. The poison quickly results in a coma that often leads to death. Since there is no way to stop the bramble once it takes hold, magic has been outlawed with the penalty of death, but still the bramble spreads as people secretly do little magics for what they consider very good reasons (such as healing a dying child). A nearby city has a culture that has never used magic since it is against their religious beliefs. When the bramble starts to grown in their city, they decide that it is their moral duty to wipe out those that use magic and force them to covert to their religion.

Tana lives with her father, husband, and two young children. Her father is one of of the villages executioners, but he is suffering from a debilitating illness that has him confined to a bed. Her husband is a drunk that spends most of his time passed out in the front yard. When the bell summoning her father to an execution rings, she has no choice but to answer it herself since the family depends on the additional income from executions to survive. However, before she can return home, raiders from the neighboring city attack and slaughter everyone that they find, except the children who they kidnap since they are young enough to convert to their religion. Faced with the destruction of her home and her family, Tana sets off on a journey to try to find her children.

I really liked this book. It has a strong female protagonist who finds herself becoming a legend, much to her dismay. Along the way, she empowers other women she meets and they use society's tendency to discount women to achieve their goals. Although she becomes the leader of a movement, her motivation was never to change the world, rather it was to save her children and prevent anyone else from suffering the way she had suffered. I liked that, although the culture of the neighboring city was violent and merciless, the reader is made to understand that their motivation is one of saving the world, even if you abhor their methods. Although this is a fantasy world, reading it had me pondering a lot of issues going on in our world today. I definitely recommend this short book. ( )
  Cora-R | Jan 14, 2016 |
This book feels like an introduction to something. The ending leaves many open points. Also, the whole concept of the bramble is dealt with in a way similar to how it was in the alchemist.

This book managed to capture similar my interest in the first half and gave me a chance to try out my skimming techniques in the second half. The story goes on a complete tangent in the second half when suddenly we are introduced to more characters. She's one on whom greatness is thrust.

The whole story feels complete in some ways so it's not that bad either. It's just not from a fantasy genre, it's more fiction than fantasy. ( )
  MugenHere | Jul 12, 2015 |
The Alchemist and The Executioness caught my eye as soon as it went up at Audible.com. (Both novellas are now available in print from Subterranean Press.) Paolo Bacigalupi and Tobias Buckell offering linked fantasy novellas that take place in a shared world? Bacigalupi's story read by Jonathan Davis? What could be more promising? (It turns out that had I been familiar with Katherine Kellgren, who read Buckell's story, I would have been even more excited about this one!)

In this shared world, the use of magic causes the growth of bramble, a fast-growing, pervasive, and deadly plant that has taken over cities, making them ... Read More: http://www.fantasyliterature.com/reviews/the-alchemist-and-the-executioness/ ( )
  Kat_Hooper | Apr 6, 2014 |
The Executioness is a fun novella set in a shared world fantasy. I haven't read the other book, by Paolo Bacigalupi, yet; I'm not sure if this is the best order to read them in. I guess I'll report on that later, because I do have the other one too!

Anyway, apparently the seed of the idea was in having a middle-aged female protagonist, and all the different motivations and problems that would give her. I can only think of one other like this, and that's Boneshaker, but both of them do have the women's lives revolving around their children... Can someone write something with a middle-aged female protagonist who doesn't have children and doesn't adopt children or base her identity on being a mother? I mean, it's great to see characters like this at all, but I'm fairly confident I'm not going to base my life solely around my children at that age, if I have children at all...

Still, Tana was a believable character in her actions and her motivations, and I especially liked her decision at the end. The story never loses sight of the real Tana, as opposed to the Tana who people create by word of mouth.

I hope The Alchemist goes more into the world and why things are the way they are. I'm intrigued by the magic system (such as it is; we don't see much of it) and by the shades of grey it puts on everyone's actions. ( )
  shanaqui | Apr 9, 2013 |
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Let me tell you about the first time I killed a man.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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"In paired novellas, award-winning authors Tobias S. Buckell and Paolo Bacigalupi explore a shared world where magic is forbidden"--Jkt. "Magic has a price. But someone else will pay. Every time a spell is cast, a bit of bramble sprouts, sending up tangling vines, bloody thorns, and threatening a poisonous sleep. It sprouts in tilled fields and in neighbors' roof beams, thrusts up from between street cobbles, and bursts forth from sacks of powdered spice. A bit of magic, and bramble follows. A little at first, and then more--until whole cities are dragged down under tangling vines and empires lie dead, ruins choked by bramble forest. Monuments to people who loved magic too much."--From publisher's description on jacket flap.… (more)

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