Friday, November 28, 2014

The French Executioner by C. C. Humphreys

Jean Rombaud is renowned for his skill as an executioner.  His services are called in when the person to be executed is shown some mercy, for his stroke is sure and strong and there is no suffering as in the many botched executions.  He is called to England to serve as the executioner for the English queen, Anne Boleyn.

Jean goes to visit Anne the night before the execution to reassure her.  He finds her stoic and ready for her death, but she has one request.  She asks that he take her hand with its famous six fingers at the same time he takes her head.  She wants him to take it to Europe and bury it at a sacred crossroads in France.  Jean agrees and with his oath, starts a journey that will take months and more from him than he ever imagined.

For this is no easy mission.  There are other forces who want the hand for themselves and the magical powers they believe it contains.  Jean assembles a group of friends who bind to each other and fight together to reach the goal.  There is Fuggar, the son of a famous German banking family, exiled from them in disgrace.  Haakon is a Norse mercenary who has fought with Jean on other battlegrounds.  Januc is a Muslim fighter who has survived many battles.  Beck is a Jewish youth who is determined to rescue her father from the courts of the evil religious Cardinal, Cibo.  Cibo wants the hand for its magical powers and is determined to do anything to capture it.

C. C. Humphreys never disappoints.  His tales are always full of great characters and tons of action.  He is a storyteller who sweeps the reader up and takes them on a magical ride.  The reader visits debauched religious courts, a town under the curse of Saint Anthony's fire, a siege, the galley on a pirate ship and many other adventures.  The action is underwritten by the love between the group that Jean assembles.  This is absolutely one of my favorite books of 2014.  This book is recommended for readers of fantasy and those who enjoy historical action literature.

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