“She shrugged. ‘I am a woman in the fourteenth century. What choices have I?’ She spoke as though she were a time traveler and temporarily out of place.” (Cramer p. 236)
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Cover blurb (from Amazon): “Tomorrow…he would be dead. 14th Century France The young priest is a dark angel amid the death and despair of the medieval prison. But, as D’ata enters the cell of the condemned man—the mercenary, the evil one—he is transfixed by the killer’s eyes. The face of the murderer is his own, a mirror image of himself. The twins, unknown to each other until this strange night, share the stories of their ill-fated lives and the destiny that brought them to this fetid dungeon.
The tales unfold, creating an unbreakable bond sealed with their darkest secrets. With only hours until the execution, D’ata begins to question which man should truly be condemned. Should it be Ravan, the ruthless killer—a boy from an orphanage who suffered the unimaginable? Or should it be he, the man of God whose own tormented desires ended in tragedy and…the inescapable darkness of his own soul? As the sun rises, D’ata knows what he must do. But can he pay the ultimate price, for what is the cost of true freedom? First in a three book series.”
I received a free copy of The Execution in exchange for an honest review. For more information, please see my review policy page.
What I liked:
I was pleasantly surprised by the emotional depth of The Execution. For some reason, I was nervous that it would be written like a textbook. (Maybe that’s just been my experience with reading about this time period…? I don’t know). I wasn’t expecting to become so attached to a wayward priest and a violent mercenary. Cramer’s main characters can be exasperating and troubling but you find yourself rooting for them anyway.
Ravan’s story, in particular, drew me in. His choices and his relationships are compelling. Throughout the book, I so badly wanted things to go well for him. Without giving too much away, I’ll say that Ravan ends up with a friendship that I absolutely adored.
I quite enjoyed the writing style, but I can see where others might find it tiring. The entire book is heavy on descriptions. I also enjoyed the pace and narration. The brothers take turns telling their stories and each chapter leaves you on a cliff-hanger; Cramer does a good job of building tension between parallel stories. Both plots were interesting and both characters are sympathetic. The villains are easy to hate and I was very satisfied with the ending.
What I didn’t like:
Like I mentioned above, this is a detail-heavy book. The plot lines aren’t complicated but Cramer spends a lot of time setting a scene. As you work your way through the book, it can become a little repetitive and dense. I also felt like the violence and depravity was slightly overdone. A lot of it made sense in context, but I think some of it could have been cut out.
I have mixed feelings about Cramer’s depictions of women. For the most part, I think it was accurate to the time period. In that sense, I understand the decisions. Reading it as a modern woman, though, I think the ladies could have been more dynamic. **Spoiler alert** As well-written and complex as the families and friendships are, I found the romantic relationships a little one-dimensional. There’s a lot of inexplicable insta-love.**
Would I recommend this book?
Yes, but only to advanced readers. This wasn’t really a casual read. If you’re into Game of Thrones I think you might like this book.
**Spoiler alert/sensitive content warning** The Execution is pretty violent. There’s a lot of blood, sexual assault, and beatings. Since the entire novel is so descriptive, the violence seems even more dramatic. There is one “live” scene of M/M rape, which is then brought up throughout the rest of the book. If you are at all sensitive about this topic, The Execution is not a great choice for you. There’s also a lot of (unflattering) discussion about Christianity and the priesthood. Most of the supporting characters are creepy, gross or downright psychotic.**
From a racial standpoint, there isn’t a lot of diversity in The Execution. It’s set in 1300’s France, so maybe that’s not surprising. D’ata and Ravan are described as having dark hair and “tawny” or “amber” skin, but that’s about it. As previously mentioned, this book isn’t overly kind to it’s female characters. One important character is literally named “the Fat Wife.” By the end, I think that each women asserts independence and autonomy. In the meantime, though, they exist to further the male story lines.
Many of the characters struggle with mental health issues. Since it’s set in the 14th century, they aren’t referred to as such, but they’re there. Cramer’s characters deal with depression, suicidal thoughts, PTSD, and she briefly alludes to bipolar and dissociative tendencies. Physically, the characters run the gamut. There’s the stereotypical evil fat guy, the sweet fat mother, and a warrior giant.
To be honest, I don’t really know much about the 1300’s, so I have no idea if this book is historically accurate. However, it’s gripping and, at times, disturbing.
I’m happy I read it. If I didn’t have a million other things on my TBR list, I’d pick up the sequels, Risen and Niveus. It’s not necessarily an easy read, but The Execution drew me in and didn’t let me go.