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Publishers Weekly★ 12/16/2013
In this novel, set in 18th-century France, Alleyn examines the clash of family obligation and individual freedom through the saga of Charles Sanson, who, at age 14, believes himself incapable of decapitating anyone. For most 14-year-olds, this wouldn't be a problem, but Charles is descended from a family of executioners, and he is expected to adopt the family trade at a young age. As Charles reluctantly accepts his profession, Alleyn provides a backdrop of indifferent spectators to highlight the differences in sensibilities between the public and the executioners who carry out justice for their safety. Alleyn is presenting a moral treatise, but it's one that challenges readers and provides an interesting historical perspective. Charles's personal crisis and clashing loyalties evoke Greek tragedy, and speak to the issues that will resonate with readers.