The Alchemist and the Executioness
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The Alchemist and the Executioness

3.71 of 5 stars 3.71  ·  rating details  ·  284 ratings  ·  49 reviews
It is a world where magic is forbidden - yet practiced in secret every day. But each small act of magic exacts a dreadful price - for it brings the bramble, which chokes farmland, destroys villages, and kills with its deadly thorns. In this world, an alchemist believes he's found a solution to the curse. But will the cure be worse than the disease? And a woman is forced to...more
Audiobook, Audible Audio Edition
Published July 6th 2010 by Audible Frontiers
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3.5 stars. This is an “audio” only double-feature containing two separate novellas, The Alchemist by Paolo Bacigalupi and The Executioness by Tobias Buckell. I recently reviewed both of those books individually and you can see their individual reviews here:


so this review is really designed just to give some feedback on the quality of the narration for those of you (like me) that listen to audio books. The 3.5 sta...more
This pair of short stories (maybe they're novellas) was released exclusively for audio download. Paolo Bacigalupi and Tobias Buckell are a pair of extremely talented science fiction writers who make their first forays into fantasy. What a job they do! These stories are so compelling and the shared world they created is beyond fascinating. I was left very satisfied, but I want more!

I think this would be a great introduction to audiobooks for people who haven't tried them before. The stories and...more
Kat  Hooper
ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.

The Alchemist and The Executioness caught my eye as soon as it went up at 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 grow...more
As this audiobook is split into to separate novellas by different authors sharing the same world, I give four stars to Bacigalupi's Alchemist and two stars to Buckell's Executioness, which averages out to three stars.

In the forward, Buckell tells how he conceived of the Executioness as a way to subvert a common fantasy trope by letting a middle-aged mother take on the title role. Despite his worthy attempt, I found Bacigalupi's single-father Alchemist a much more interesting, complex, morally co...more
Currently available only as an audiobook, this novella consists of two short stories set in the same world. It's very good, set in a world that is late Middle Ages or early Renaissance technologically, but resembling India or Southeast Asia culturally. In this world, magic is a powerful tool that anyone can use, but every use causes Brambles to grow in the area. Brambles are a deadly, magical weed that poisons and kills anyone who touches it, and they are slowly choking the entire continent; emp...more
Feb 22, 2011 Eric rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: I can't say I would recommend this to anyone, sadly
Recommended to Eric by:
This is a collection of two short stories set in the same fantasy world that is available exclusively on Audible, for reasons I'm not clear on. Since they are by different authors, I will review them separately.

The Alchemist, by Paulo Baciagalupi

The pace was slow and tedious at times, but the story had well drawn characters and a very satisfying conclusion. Three stars for this story.

The Executioness, by Tobias Buckell

This story did not grip me enough to even bother finishing it.

Never having read neither Paolo Bacigalupi nor Tobias S. Buckell, I only had hype and reputation of these authors to go on for this book. It was alright. I enjoyed The Alchemist portion much more than I did The Executioness. I wish the two stories had been linked better than just being set in the same world. The second novella, The Executioness, also felt a bit rushed toward the end. That said, I don't really mind that it was rushed, as I was kind of bored by then.
Two good but not great stories in a shared universe. In this universe, magic is fairly routinely used however it causes a truly awful plant called "Bramble" to sprout up everywhere. I thought The Alchemist was the stronger of the two. They are both worthy but flawed. 3.5 stars

Narrated by Jonathan Davis , Katherine Kellgren

5 hrs and 36 mins

I guess I'm just not much into fantasy. This audiobook was ok, but my attention kept wandering.

Audible Editor Reviews

Two acclaimed science fiction authors bring us two separate stories about magic and its consequences in the shared fantasy world of Khaim.

Magic exists and is available to all, but every use of it produces the dreaded bramble, a poisonous plant that kills any human who touches it. In the bramble-choked lands of Khaim a...more
Lady of the Lake
Written exclusively for audio I picked this up at audible on sale for under $5.00. They are a combo of shorter stories by authors that normally write science fiction. They have an introductory read by each at the start of this book giving their reasons for writing such a fantasy. They had been challenged to use a middle aged family woman as the hero. They had spoken about that most all women heroines of these fantasies are big breasted bad ass tough chicks who are without families and they thoug...more
Melissa Railey
Paolo Bacigalupi has recently become one of my favorite authors. He creates this magnificent worlds that full of magic and wonder and so very well developed. I was little unsure of this story with an additional author unknown to me (sorry Tobias Buckell). But I shouldn't have worried. This are two beautiful interlinked stories and I fell in love with all the characters (although I have to admit that I was quite upset to leave the Alchemist and move to the Executioness). The sentences were just b...more
I'm not sure that audiobooks are quite right for me while running. I've finished the Alchemist, but I've also noticed that a) sometimes my mind starts to wander and then I miss a few sentences and can't go back or b) the traffic noise on a few streets is occasionally too loud to hear the narration. It also bothers me that I can't easily skip around and re-read sections. I guess I'm not cut out to be an audiobook listener. Thankfully, the novella was simple enough that missing sentences here and...more
this was a good book. i have read a number of bacigalupi books but this was my first foray into bucknell. the styles were markedly different but i didnt really think about who was writing which part while listening to the book.

i prefer bacigalupi's dystopian worlds to this fantasy world, but if more different authors wrote in this bramble world, i would read/listen to the books until they werent any good. i like collaboration and the idea of different authors writing in the same world truly give...more
This book contains two slightly-connected stories set in the same vaguely Near Eastern fantasy world.

Bacigalupi's piece, "The Alchemist", is the real gem of the pair, an eloquent parable on what has to be sacrificed to deal with an environmental catastrophe caused by human short-sightedness. The story is readable for its dark twist and the moral question at its heart, as well as its even-handed, credible character voice.

Buckell's piece, "The Executioness", a story about a middle-aged woman who d...more
Two short stories, two authors and two narrators, with one shared fantasy world between them. The first, The Alchemist, shows that the combination of great writing and great narration can make a story much more entertaining than it actually deserves. It also sets up the second story, The Executioness, which I found less entertaining but more thought provoking, showing many parallels to our own world. Both felt shallow though, missing something. Both are good but not great.
May 02, 2011 Nik rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Nik by: Fantasy lovers!
Shelves: audio-books
This was a tag team by two authors and the stories overlap each other, but only refer to each other briefly. I loved Jeoz the alchemist and his plight. However, I really loved the strength and power Tana, the executionist, showed in her fight to get her children back and freeing her people from the savage nature of The Way. Basically all magic folk are in trouble in both books because it's side effect if a scurge called bramble, which is like a thorny vine that grows over everything the more mag...more
Oct 28, 2012 Kingsley rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Fans of fantasy
Shelves: 2012, audible
4/5 for The Alchemist
3.5/5 for The Executioness

Two novellas set in the same world, where use of magic causes a bramble to grow, choking the cities. The world is a impressive world, for such a short book, with history and depth. This book, especially The Alchemist, left me wanting more stories set in this world.

The two stories are set concurrently, dealing with different main characters and their efforts to look after the families. The protagonists of the stories are both non-traditional heroes f...more
Two stories, one by Paolo Bacigalupi and the other by Tobias Buckell, set in the same world, both exploring the needs of the few against maintaining the world for everyone. In this world, magic is banned as it stimulates the growth of Bramble, a deadly invasive bush which is gradually reducing the availability of land. Both stories are riveting.

While they are in the same world, the stories do not relate to each other, and the story 'the Alchemist' has a very open ending. Does this mean there wi...more
Bacigalupi does not disappoint, the Excecutioness is a bit disappointing.

This is a Fantasy written by SiFi authors. The main gist is that an environmental problem is being presented in a fantastic setting.

My main issue with the Excecutioness is that victory comes too easy.
We are told which tactics are smart, and then shown how they work perfectly in practice. There is conflict within her soul, but she uses the recommended tactics and wins every time.
This is a naive representation of combat.
I liked this a lot more than I thought I would going into it. The introduction by the two authors induces eye rolls and this stupid idea that you have to create a special scenario to have female characters in certain rolls is beyond dumb. The stories themselves are good and are able to touch on themes of idealism and violence and stuff without going into gruesome details and dwelling on things that don't need to be dwelled on for the story to be effective. Good stories, both of them.
After reading so many reviews where the reviewers preferred the first story in this book, The Alchemist, I wasn't really looking forward to the rest of this book when I found myself somewhat bored by said story. Surprisingly, the second story, The Executioness, grabbed my attention from the start and held it fairly well until its conclusion.

I'm leaning between 3 and 4 stars here, but I'd rate this as a solid 3 1/2: 3 stars for The Alchemist and 4 for The Executioness.
I bought this for the Bacigalupi, which was a fine story, though the end might have delivered more punch. Similarly, the second part of the book by Buckle was fine, though I mostly finished it on account of inertia.
If you're a fantasy fan, these tales are pretty hum drum. If, like me, you came for Bacigalupi (via Windup Girl), and just want more from him, dig into the short story collection 'Pump Six' post haste and you won't be disappointed.
The Executioness was a 4-star story -- I really appreciated the main character, and while the plot was nothing new, it was solid and interesting. The Alchemist, much as I like Bacigalupi, was only a 2-star story. It was far too formulaic and trite. The common world is interesting, and I'd be willing to read future stories set there, but over all these were a bit weak (though probably good for newer fantasy readers).
The Alchemist is a 2.5 and the Executioness is a 4.5.

The Executioness is if you can imagine Conan as a pissed-off, middle-aged mom who's on a mission for revenge because her children were taken from her. This was brilliant all around! Not only does the story unfold with an older female as the major character but you get a glimpse into the beginnings of great myth and the complexities of war. Amazing speculative fiction!
Ed van der Winden
Nice, but ultimately not very satisfying. I found the world interesting, the characterization was good but there were too few surprises for my taste. I liked the story of the Alchemist better. The story of the Executioness caught my interest very much at the start but I would have liked that story to have stayed somewhat "smaller", more personal. At the end I noticed that I wanted the story to be finished.
This is book is a collection of two stories set in the same general world. I really liked The Alchemist, but struggled with The Executioness. For me, I think it would have gone better if order of the stories had been reversed. After The Alchemist I didn't want to let that storyline go, which made it all the more difficult to stay involved in The Executioness. Overall an enjoyable read.
This short story along with "The Scar" by Marina Dyachenko is responsible for altering my opinion on Fantasy novels.
I thought it was all wizards, quests and dragons.
To spend such a brief amount of time in the world and still be convinced of the characters emotions and surroundings left me hungry for more.
I cant pick a favorite of the two, both were great.
More please.
Backlash to magic: interesting concept. Really interesting and well developed world for 2 short novellas. I wish this world had been more fully developed into an epic story-line instead. The Executioness wasn't as good as The Alchemist. Paolo Bacigalupi is so much win, I love his writing!
Not much to say about the stories themselves: "The Executioness" was just barely ok, "The Alchemist" was much better. Katherine Kellgren did a magnificent job narrating the first one and I'm going to look for her other audiobooks. She's also the main reason why I give this three stars.
Jesse Worley
The alchemist was pretty good, but the executioness was excellent. Great character development for such a short format. There was a little bit of crossover between the stories, but I would love to see this world explored further. It is full of stories that could be told.
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Paolo Bacigalupi’s writing has appeared in High Country News,, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine. It has been anthologized in various “Year’s Best” collections of short science fiction and fantasy, nominated for three Nebula and five Hugo Awards, and won the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for best sf short story of the year.

His debut nov...more
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The Windup Girl Ship Breaker (Ship Breaker, #1) The Drowned Cities (Ship Breaker, #2) Pump Six and Other Stories The Alchemist

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