I was excited about this since I have read a few of DK Holmberg’s other works and enjoyed them. I may not have loved them but the writing was solid enough for me to keep diving back into different series of his from time to time.
The premise for this is fascinating, I’ve never seen a POV from an executioner’s apprentice before. The role is grim, and you’re instinctively biased against people like this, I mean who cheers for the executioner? Finn is a thief following in his father’s footsteps… except his father is currently in jail after getting pinched doing a job. Finn is a newish member to this guild of thieves, but he’s paid enough respect due to his father’s previous membership and strong ties to the group. This doesn’t help Finn when he himself gets nabbed while robbing royalty… as it happens the nobility are on edge since the King is coming to visit and decide to take a drastic step with Finn and make him serve as an example. Instead of whipping or exile or something less extreme, he’s sentenced to death. In steps the executioner, a thoughtful and devoted servant of the crown… who also believes that Finn deserves a second chance. He has an uncanny ability to know if someone is telling the truth or not, so when Finn is facing the noose and starts angrily ranting about how he was just trying to help his sick mom (true), the executioner invokes his right to stay the execution and takes him on as an apprentice. This may sound suuuppeerr spoilery to talk about, but it’s all right in there in the blurb.
Finn drove me BANANAS with some of his choices, everything he did I was like “no no, don’t do THAT, anything but THAT… oh look what you did now, I told you.” He’s impulsive and headstrong which does him no favors. He is loyal though, and means well despite how badly he can fuck up his heart’s in the right place. That said, Meyer is where it’s at, he’s definitely my favorite character. That couldn’t come as a surprise for people who follow my reviews, I tend to like older, wiser, calmer, cooler headed characters that think shit through. Meyer takes his job seriously, he doesn’t just consider the crime the person has committed but WHY they did it. People’s motivations matter to him and he has a strong sense of morality, but it’s incongruous with his loyalties to the law. He often times doesn’t distinguish between the law and morality. All that said, this dude also tortures people for information. Part of the executioners job is to get information from people, and at times that includes torture. Finn has to wrestle with his own morals about whether or not he can perform this incredibly odd job that’s part paperwork, part detective, part healer, part executioner, part torturer and part errand boy. There are of course Big Decisions to be made since his potential new career (and only choice if he wants to live) will butt up against his old buddies who are thieves by trade. Where do his real loyalties lie? What will best help his family? Is there a right answer at all? There’s also a secondary layer of intrigue going on because many different experienced thieves are suddenly getting pinched, and the leader of their crew is taking strange jobs that are more dangerous than is typical.
There are teases of magic users that are in the background of society, literally pushed to the outskirts of town they aren’t exactly revered, more like feared. They are rumored to come and take the hands, feet and genitals of people who have been executed to perform their magic. However, they’re also known to be healers and people seek them out for cures and tinctures. However, most of the story is low-fantasy and not focused around magic and is more urban fantasy thieving kind of thing rather than spells and fireballs.
I’m going to reserve my rating until we choose a finalist!!