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
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 take up the mantle of her father, the Executioner. But it will not be the only death that she faces.
Available exclusively in audio, The Alchemist and the Executioness is the unique collaborative effort of two leading science fiction authors, Paolo Bacigalupi and Tobias S. Buckell. Working together for the first time, the authors stepped out of their comfort zone (both primarily write science fiction) to delve into fantasy, producing these linked stories that share the same captivating world.
About the Authors
Paolo Bacigalupi is the author of the Nebula Award-winning novel The Windup Girl. His short fiction has been honored with the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award as well as nominations for both the Hugo and Nebula Awards.
Tobias S. Buckell is the New York Times best-selling author of Halo: The Cole Protocol, Ragamuffin, and other novels. He is also a contributor to the Audible production of METAtropolis.
BONUS AUDIO: Includes an exclusive introduction written and read by the authors.
©2010 Paolo Bacigalupi, Tobias S. Buckell (P)2010 Audible, Inc.
"[Bacigalupi's] bite-sized tale is charming, lyrically written, and thematically rich....Fantasy fans will love [Buckell's] lush narrative and... endearing and unconventional heroine." (Publishers Weekly)
The Alchemist was so well-written that the reader did not merely sympathize with the character, you actually suffered his frustration at his own self-imposed impotence. In reading fantasy, one quickly adapts to the "hero" concept wherein the good guy saves the day. But with The Alchemist, the character acts as any real person might. Where there are opportunities for heroism, the character is not strong enough to take them. So he does what he can to save his own hide and that of those whom he loves. YET. I listened to the ending and felt complete; like it was a sweet story well told.
The Executioness was more a story of how circumstances and superficial observation serve to develop a character just as much as individual growth does. Few people (in the story) get close enough to the woman to know what drives and motivates her. Yet their opinion of her, which she tries to reject with limited success, is what she ultimately becomes. This story also is somewhat cautionary in that even if the hero's path is chosen for you, the grand scheme of things is still just an ever-changing scheme.
These stories don't touch each other. They are different people in different parts of the same world and have no impact on one another. But if the authors wanted them to, they could! It is a world in which magic had become mundane and a natural blight results from careless overuse of magic. The authors treat magic as mundane and commonplace, and as a result, the reader almost forgets it's there. Very well written stories!
Both of the narrators gave stellar performances. Katherine Kellgren is one of the most talented readers I've had the privilege of listening. She has a huge range of accents and is always consistent with her characterizations. Jonathan Davis has the gift of creating an atmosphere of empathy when he reads. Both narrators worked perfectly with these stories.
This book is really two short stories. The stories are set against the same background events but have main characters whose lives do not intersect. The two stories did not really belong together. Also, maybe because they are short, the plots do not seem to be completely wound up. You are left wanting to know more about what happened to the characters. I wonder, is this a beginning of a series of stories or a longer novel?
I would recommend this book. The stories are very well imagined, exciting, and fast-paced. Of course, since these are fantasy stories you have to suspend disbelief, but the writers make you believe enough to care about the characters and the situation.
The narration is very well done.
I have listened to Jonathan Davis's narration before. He is uniformly excellent. I had never listened to Katherine Kellgren before, but she did a fine job with this story.
I feel like the book was really interesting. But it is actually 2 separate stories. They are not very connected, although I thought the authors had actually collaborated on one book. Maybe they did, but it is a collaboration of two separate stories. Both are excellent, but I keep waiting for more. I would like more. By the end of each story, I felt like I wanted to hear more, learn more about what happens.
I did not like the narrator on the second story. It was a little difficult to understand her accent. That is just me. Others may have no problems at all.
Jonathan Davis' narration of Bacigalupi's story is a joy to listen to, and I found 'The Alchemist' engaging--a story where it is easy to identify with the character and the world is interesting in its own right. Similarly, Katherine Kellgren gives an apt performance for 'The Executioness', and I enoyed Buckell's character. But his writing felt awkward at points, especially earlier in the story: odd phrases and sentences of info-dump dropped in between things characters were saying; slow pacing; lackluster character motivation. It picks up after the first third, about the point that the Executioness begins combat training, and I really liked the ending and the conflict resolution.
Great narrator for a great concept. Only complaint was the book was too short. I wanted it to go on. Loved the lead female character...It's about time.She was strong, but not overdone with a chip on her shoulder like an actress in a bad movie that overdoes her part. She reminded me a bit of the male lead in the movie "American Beauty"..." I'm just a regular guy with nothing to lose". Those types of people can do amazing things and that's exactly what she did. Juxtapose her with the male lead who was brilliant but a bit of a twit who had me pulling out my hair and screaming ,"Stupid, Why did you do that!" Great book.
One of the better audio books that I've listened to in quite some time. Both stories are fast-paced and interesting and both narrators do a great job with the material. Definitely worth the download.
I love audio books! From science to fiction, business to history. Stories, novels, fairytales, descriptions, guides, explanations, etc.
The two stories are great and written in an entertaining and capturing way. The background is rich and deep. You will not find flat or boring characters either – both stories have complex, deep, characters confronted with interesting challenges that do not have simple solutions. The narrator is brilliant in bringing the stories alive. This definitely has been added to my “good book” list.
The audio books I get tend to be either 1) scifi or 2) things for my husband and me to listen to on long road trips--humor or history
I absolutely loved the world these two authors co-created for these linked novellas. That there would be negative consequences to magic is a completely unique idea, in my experience of fantasy literature. Bacigalupi took the concept and ran with it. His story, The Alchemist, featured a fully realized main character and was beautifully written, only faltering slightly at the end, which seemed to not really fit the rest of the story. The Executioness suffered in comparison. It felt one-dimensional and skirted dealing head-on with the essential dilemma. At the end, I was left with an unfinished feeling, as if there should have been a third story that would have solved the problem once and for all.
[I listened to this as an audio book read by Jonathan Davis and Katherine Kellgren. Both did excellent jobs narrating. It seemed they coordinated their performances, deciding that the denizens of this world would speak with vaguely African sounding accents. This helped me feel like I had been transported to another realm and made the world of the book more real.]
I don't usually listen to short stories but I liked these. Both stories take place in the same world and during the same time period at some points which tie them together nicely. The stories themselves are rich and interesting. The first one actually made me emotional and anxious for the main character at one point and completely invested me in their lives. The second one was also a pretty strong story if a bit less plausible. It still made for a great listen.
The narration was done quite well. Jonathan Davis was almost too good though. His voice was so soft and soothing I almost fell asleep a couple of times. Katherine Kellgren was fantastic. She had a great voice and I loved the accent she brought to the story.
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 beautiful in these stories. If I had been reading a physical book, I would have stopped more than once to marvel over their composition. Jonathan Davis and Katherine Kellgren were wonderful narrators (as usual).
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