Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Executioness” as Want to Read:
The Executioness
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Executioness

(Khaim Novellas #1)

3.48  ·  Rating details ·  897 ratings  ·  130 reviews
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 firs
Hardcover, Deluxe Trade Edition, 102 pages
Published January 31st 2011 by Subterranean Press
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Executioness, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Executioness

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.48  · 
Rating details
 ·  897 ratings  ·  130 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Executioness
No fooling folks...a middle-aged MOM kicking some serious fantasy rump and raining pain and destruction on the assbozos that stole her children...can you say

Now, if that doesn’t sound like an appealing (and long overdue) premise to a fantasy story than may I please take a moment to remind you of the following:
Jul 12, 2011 rated it liked it
One day, Tobias Buckell and Paolo Bacigalupi decided to write a pair of novellas set in a shared world. They obviously put a lot of thought into this fictional landscape, a place where magic exists, but its use carries a terrible price -- every time a spell is cast, a shoot of cursed bramble sprouts from the ground; one prick of its poison thorns will send you into a deep sleep from which no mere prince's kiss will awaken you.

It's a neat idea, rife with juicy metaphorical implications to go alo
Feb 23, 2015 rated it it was ok
I am not having the best of days, and words are failing me at the moment. This was well written, but it was also dark, bleak, and just too high a price for the short story it was.
Oct 24, 2011 rated it liked it
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 wo
Mar 03, 2011 rated it liked it
Recommended to Tatiana by: Stephen
Shelves: fantasy, 2011
2.5 stars

Nothing remarkable here except that the main character is a middle-aged woman, a widow and a mother, who wields an executioner's axe and unwittingly becomes a legend and a symbol of resistance. The rest is not memorable, even though world-building and story are decent.
The Executioness is a side-by-side novella paired with The Alchemist by Paolo Bacigalupi. In the forward, much is made of the idea that the Heroine is "different," because she's an older woman. I'm really glad they pointed it out, because there really wasn't anything in the story to establish that by her character, except that she had chidren already, and her father was old. Well, really, those two points don't exactly convince me that Tana is an older woman.

So while I really liked this story, I
Ranting Dragon
Dec 31, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: james

Any time a spell is cast, bramble will sprout up somewhere in the world. Bramble that cuts and promises a poisonous sleep to any who don’t give it a wide enough berth. There’s no way to predict where the vines might pop up, it might sprout on your house or a thousand miles away. This bramble has slowly wrought decay upon the world, overrunning cities, destroying farms, and killing people.

Tara lives in this bramble-filled world and has recently taken up her
Jan 11, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
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
May 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is a novella-length work, and shares a world with another novella by Paolo Bacigalupi, a world in which magic is outlawed, as its use leads to the spread of deadly bramble. It’s a great setup, as is the premise of the story: Tana’s home is attacked by a neighboring power. Her husband and her father (an executioner) are killed, and her children taken. So she takes up her father’s axe and hood and sets out to save them, beginning a quest “that will change lives, cities, and even an entire lan ...more
Aug 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
A group of " I drank too much kool aid " extremists kidnap Tana’s two sons to show them the "right" way to live. Wrong move. She hunts the kidnappers down with an executioner's ax and brings with her an entire mob of equally protective mothers that have lost their children to the same cause. Lesson learned: Do not mess with a woman’s offspring.

More than that, this short is story well written and should appeal to the Sci-Fi crowd. The only disappointment for me is the length. I wish it were long
Jenny Thompson
Jul 25, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
An odd little book. Buckell was attempting to tell a pretty big story in novella form, so naturally it all felt a bit underdeveloped and rushed.
Paige Ellen Stone
Feb 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is the companion volume to Paolo Bacigalupi's novella, "The Alchemist" which I have reviewed separately. This is set in the same world as "The Alchemist" and it doesn't matter which one you read first. Where "The Alchemist" focused on getting rid of the "bramble", the thick thorny vines that increase their presence and their suffocating and isolating effect the more that practitioners us magic, this volume focuses on the story of Tana, daughter of an executioner and along with Tana, the onl ...more
Feb 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
I read both this book and its companion novella The Alchemist side by side (almost) because they follow two different paths that give a wider view of the world. The Executioness follows Tana as she leaves Lesser Khaim (the more or less 'poor folk' district) while The Alchemist follows Jeoz as he fights to save Khaim from the Bramble.

In his introduction Paolo mentions that part of the genesis for this combined world came from a writer's friend's lament that there were not more middle-aged women p
The story follows a mother of two who was first forced by circumstance into the role of a one-time executioner, and then forced by other circumstances into a conqueror, bearing the blown-up reputation of an "executioness". *blink* *blink* Yes, that the transition.

I think perhaps this short story would really have been better off as a longer novel. The actual idea, and the rather strong female lead, was pretty good. Things just seemed to escalate a little too quickly and I haven't quite lost that
May 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
This is a shared-world novel with Paolo Bacigalupi's The Alchemist, and I'm glad I read the latter, first. Had I read this one, first, I might've been disappointed in The Alchemist. I wouldn't say it's better, exactly, but it is more epic in scope, with a heroine I can relate to better than in Bacigalupi's story.

The Bramble plays less of a role in this story; it's more of a setting than an antagonist. But that's understandable; Tana, the title character of Executioness, has plenty to deal with w
Sep 03, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fantasy, novella
Amateurish, lazy, unimaginative writing. The plot never even bothered with causality. Instead the main character (who is a boring, empty two-dimensional shell) is acted upon. The story itself suffers from an identity crisis: what could very well be a coming-of-age story is instead covered up by a tacked-on "women's empowerment" story that comes off as shallow and clichéd. There are no real obstacles in the story; opposition (both external and internal) is dealt with in a few sentences and then i ...more
Mar 07, 2011 rated it liked it
Reading the introduction, I think I was hoping for more. So often, women are sidelined as heroes, that it is great to see an author deliberately addressing that. However, it is disappointing that so often when this happens, it is framed as reliant on their status as a mother and undertaken very reluctantly. That isn't to say that Tana is not a formidable and interesting hero, I just wish that women were allowed the same latitude of reason for their heroic journeys.

Having first read "The Alchemis
Kat  Hooper
Aug 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
The Alchemist and The Executioness caught my eye as soon as it went up at (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
Aug 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
At least this time I was prepared for the short length of the novella. Still I think I preferred this book to it's companion novella. The surprising aspect to me was how little the characters interacted. This could have been two stories in an anthology. outside of a vague reference to "a blue city" and the acknowledgement of a bloody execution in The Alchemist, there's not much that links the stories together. I would love too see a third story link the main characters our even take a new charac ...more
Oct 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
A short novella with a powerful female lead. Feels somewhat nihilist, but we'll written ...more
Patrick W
Sep 04, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: in, fantasy, 2010, novella
This review was originally posted on my review blog (Stomping on Yeti) at A Few Words: The Alchemist and The Executioness showcase two rising stars in the the genre but aren't completely successful in fully realizing the inherent potential in their shared fantasy world.[return][return]Pros: [return]1) Fast, fun stories that work both in print and audio formats[return]2) The Alchemist is a fantasy version of pitch perfect Bacigalupian exposition[return]3) ...more
May 08, 2018 rated it it was ok
This sister novel to The Alchemist was not as well written as I thought it could be.

I applaud the author for trying to write from a female perspective, and for having such a fun idea to run with, but the protagonist (Tana) seemed a little too one-dimensional to me. Her only driving thought was ~*~*~her children~*~*~. Just because you add that she's a bad-ass fighter doesn't make her a multi-dimensional character.

I contrast this to The Alchemist, where I felt like the main character was more com
BJ Haun
This was alright. The character development was good, I thought. This is a story that may have benefited by being in format other than a short story/novella, 'cause the build up to the climax and the climax itself happen a bit too abruptly to make sense. Like I have seen other reviews say, it makes little sense for (view spoiler) ...more
May 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I'm going to be looking for more from this author. I've not read him before, but he's been added to the WWBL.
A woman loses her children to a religious horde. She wants them back. She finds herself in a position not of her making, she just wants her family returned.
I like when something happens to someone in a book and they either rise above or wallow. She rises above.
This is in the same world as THE ALCHEMIST - Paolo Balcigalupi. Magic and deadly bramble. Bad and good. Excellent.
I can recomme
May 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2018
A simple story, exceedingly well-written. The only criticism I have for this short novella is the illustrations, which are beautiful but woefully lacking in one important way. This is a lovely book, rare in that it focuses on a very specifically middle-aged woman, past her breeding years. And yet all the illustrations clearly show a young beauty in her twenties at latest. A real shame in such a treasure of a book. But I don't normally pay much attention to illustrations, and the story is still w ...more
Dragan Nanic
Jul 01, 2018 rated it it was ok
A companion piece to The Alchemist without any interest in explaining the world or the situation in it (therefore preferably to be read after).

A sword and sorcery with a contemporary twist - main protagonist is a woman. While that opens up a lot of possibilities, unfortunately Buckell stays superficial. It reads like a retelling of Conan (the movie version), without really exploring either the feminine side or the executioness one.

Should have been way better.
Dareth McKenna
Aug 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great Story - I want more!

I really enjoyed this and The Alchemist. I was attracted to this after I read The Alchemist, which I bought when looking for more of Paolo Bacigalupi's work after I read Windup Girl. My only question now is - these are several years old now - has there been more written about this world?
Jan 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book for it's relatable, unique heroine and her realistic reactions to the tragedy she faced. But by the middle of the book, it began to feel like the story would have benefited if it was a bit longer. The worldbuilding felt sparse - more would have been nice. Many of the support characters felt flat. But it was an easy read with an emotional ending. ...more
Aug 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is why I still enjoy the short story format.
What a tidy tale.

Not just any middle-aged woman. A leader, an inspiration.
The story grew as she grew.
Axes and elephants.
Caravans and cities.
Her goal in sight was does she do..?

Read it. It is short and delicious.
Great use of words.
Apr 27, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
This is really a solid 2.5 and the only reason its not a 3 - it really could have benefited from being a full length novel. It's a great setting with an interesting main character, I just needed more story. ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Ghost Story (The Dresden Files, #13)
  • The Last Emperox (The Interdependency, #3)
  • Heaven's River (Bobiverse, #4)
  • The Haunting of Tram Car 015 (Fatma el-Sha’arawi #0.6)
  • Drowned Country (The Greenhollow Duology, #2)
  • Silver in the Wood (The Greenhollow Duology, #1)
  • The Water Knife
  • How to Get Rich
  • Money
  • The Lifecycle of Software Objects
  • Love Sense: The Revolutionary New Science of Romantic Relationships
  • Age of Myth (The Legends of the First Empire, #1)
  • A Taste of Honey (The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps, #2)
  • Vita Nostra
  • The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps (The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps, #1)
  • The Woman in the Dunes
  • Crown of Shadows (The Coldfire Trilogy, #3)
  • When True Night Falls (The Coldfire Trilogy, #2)
See similar books…
Born in the Caribbean, Tobias S. Buckell is a New York Times Bestselling author. His novels and over 50 short stories have been translated into 17 languages and he has been nominated for the Hugo, Nebula, Prometheus and John W. Campbell Award for Best New Science Fiction Author. He currently lives in Ohio.

Other books in the series

Khaim Novellas (4 books)
  • The Alchemist
  • Subterranean Magazine, Spring 2013
  • The Tangled Lands

Related Articles

  Bestselling author Jeff VanderMeer is perhaps best known for his creepy sci-fi thriller Annihilation, which was made into a movie and kicked...
153 likes · 34 comments