Johnsergeant's Reviews > The Alchemist, and, The Executioness

The Alchemist, and, The Executioness by Paolo Bacigalupi
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Feb 06, 2011

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bookshelves: audiblecom, audiobook, fantasy

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 and Lesser Khaim magic is outlawed, and anyone caught practicing it does so at the risk of facing the executioner. The people live in poverty and fear — fear of bramble, of the Jolly Mayor who controls the people with the executioner's axe, and fear of the raiders of Paika, who slaughter their men and kidnap their children.

The Alchemist, written by award-winning author Paolo Bacigalupi and narrated by the estimable Jonathan Davis, grounds us in this shared world with the story of Jeoz the Alchemist, who has committed his life to finding a way to eradicate the bramble once and for all. Through 15 years, the death of his wife, and his daughter's illness, Jeoz has persevered. He experiments in secret, lest he be caught bringing Bramble inside the city walls. If he succeeds in his trials with his invention, the balanthast, he will surely be a hero. But power and politics may stand between the balanthast and humanity's salvation.

Those familiar with Jonathan Davis' narration will not be surprised by his evocative performance here. The desperate but gentle Jeoz, his charming daughter Jiala, the pitiless Magister Scacz — Bacigalupi's varied cast is voiced with Davis' usual convincing care.

Best-selling novelist Tobias Buckell gives us The Executioness, the story of Tana, the executioner's daughter — a middle-aged mother of two whose entire life is thrown into upheaval with the swing of an axe. When she is forced to stand in for her father she earns the title of the Executioness, a name which will follow her when her children are taken by Paikan raiders and she alone must find them.
Narrator Katherine Kellgren brings an exotic flavor to her performance of Tana's tale with a fantasy dialect, perhaps inspired by the spice road that the Caravan travels. Kellgren's performance makes the dialog ring true in a way that a less creative narration might not.

The two stories are vastly different in tone. The Alchemist is a darker fantasy, where magic is so prominent it is nearly a character in the story, while The Executioness eschews magic and intrigue in favor of action and adventure. Both are rich tales performed by gifted narrators. You won't find The Alchemist and The Executioness in print--it is an Audible.com exclusive, and one you'll want to listen to again. —Christie Yant
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