Over the weekend I attempted to recover from my reading ennui (due to too many romance novels) by reading all sorts of not romance.
The first one I read was this one:
Parallel lives are fated to collide in The Execution, a medieval thriller, dark adventure, and tragic love story set in fourteenth century France.
A young priest enters the prison cell of a condemned mercenary and is shocked to see the face of this murderer is his own—a mirror image of himself. Unknown to each other until now, the twins form a bond of brotherhood, sealed with their darkest secrets. [redacted because it falls perilously close to spoiler territory, but you can read the full blurb on the Goodreads page.]
The story opens with a priest going to visit a man condemned to die to offer last rites. Turns out, they’re twinsies! They spend the night in the prisoner’s cell exchanging life stories.
The priest and the mercenary were twins, but the priest was given up for adoption (i.e. left on the steps of a church) at birth and the mercenary lived with his mother until her death from the plague a few years later.
The priest, D’ata, was raised in a noble household and given back to the church when he became an adult. He was not such a good priest, it turns out.
The mercenary, Ravan, was raised in a orphanage and then later apprenticed out to an Innkeeper (who sold him to a mercenary king). He was quite a good mercenary.
Their tales wind round 14th century France and weave a tale of romance, betrayal, violence, and desperation. In the end, they end up in the same place – prison – one of stone and one of despair.
I thought this was overall beautifully written. I was pulled into the emotions of the star-crossed young lovers, and even though I found them a bit melodramatic and more than a bit silly (the wisdom of age, maybe?) I was still engaged in their story.
Ravan’s story was much more compelling (perhaps I prefer the slow descent into darkness rather than the sappier and more Romeo and Juliet-esque type of character development) to me. His side certainly had the darker and more disturbing events – the violence and sexual assault – but recent research prejudices aside, it all came together to make him into the man he became.
There were places in which the back and forth narratives lost the thread of the story for me, especially when the narrative was taken up by someone not D’ata or Ravan.
I loved it. I thought the darkness of Ravan’s life and the odd twists of D’ata’s worked together to create a compelling reason why they ended up in the same place at the same time. My biggest distraction was hardly the author’s fault. I just couldn’t help envisioning D’ata as Data.
(3 3/4 stars)