The Executioner's Heir: A Novel of Eighteenth-Century France

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Overview

Charles-Henri Sanson has good looks, a fine education, and plenty of money: everything that a stylish young Parisian could ask for. He also has an infamous family name-and he's trapped in a hideous job that no one wants.

The last thing Charles ever wanted to be was a hangman. But he's the eldest son of Paris's most dreaded public official, and in the 1750s, after centuries of superstition, people like him are outcasts. He knows that the executioner's son must become an ...

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The Executioner's Heir: A Novel of Eighteenth-Century France

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Overview

Charles-Henri Sanson has good looks, a fine education, and plenty of money: everything that a stylish young Parisian could ask for. He also has an infamous family name-and he's trapped in a hideous job that no one wants.

The last thing Charles ever wanted to be was a hangman. But he's the eldest son of Paris's most dreaded public official, and in the 1750s, after centuries of superstition, people like him are outcasts. He knows that the executioner's son must become an executioner himself or starve, for society's fears and prejudices will never let him be anything else. And when disaster strikes, in this true story of destiny and conflicting loyalties in decadent, treacherous pre-revolutionary France, family duty demands that Charles take his father's place much sooner than he had ever imagined.

"Alleyn's exhaustive research pays off handsomely in well-drawn characters and colorful historical context. In particular, her female characters are refreshing in their range and willingness to defy stereotypes. A sequel would be welcome to this deftly imagined tale of the years before the French Revolution. A well-researched, robust tale featuring an endearing executioner." --Kirkus Reviews

(Starred Review) "Charles's personal crisis and clashing loyalties evoke Greek tragedy, and speak to the issues that will resonate with readers." --Publishers Weekly

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Editorial Reviews

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.
Kirkus Reviews
2013-10-30
Alleyn (Palace of Justice, 2010, etc.), author of several historical mysteries set in France, fashions a dramatic tale based on an actual family of executioners in 18th-century Paris. In a hereditary position as the son of the executioner, Charles Sanson is required to carry on the distasteful occupation first assigned to his great-grandfather or else be left disgraced and without a source of income. Although a necessary job to maintain discipline for the rulers of the Regime Ancien, the executioner was reviled, called a butcher and torturer by his countrymen. With few friends and a small pool of available women to wed, an executioner could be assured only of financial security and a restricted social life. When, due to his father's illness, teenage Charles is forced to take over the role of master executioner of Paris, he struggles to find solace with family and then with women who don't know his secret. When his lover learns of his true profession and abandons him, he rails: "I've nothing to be ashamed of! I'm a good Christian, a gentleman, the king's servant, an officer of the law, and equal of any of them--I only follow orders the judges give me. Why should I be pointed out, hissed at, despised?" When his path intersects with that of François, a bright, high-spirited teenager of petty nobility with no money and little family, Charles realizes that his role as master executioner compels him to carry out horrific punishments on people whose crimes are often more political and vindictive than felonious. Charles realizes that, despite his father's belief that they serve the law and avenge the innocent, he is "a tool of a regime that's revealed itself to be corrupt, malicious, and brutal." Yet Charles continues to carry out the duties of his hereditary post. No detail is spared in describing the heinous punishments demanded by the judiciary and the king. Alleyn's exhaustive research pays off handsomely in well-drawn characters and colorful historical context. In particular, her female characters are refreshing in their range and willingness to defy stereotypes. A sequel would be welcome to this deftly imagined tale of the years before the French Revolution. A well-researched, robust tale featuring an endearing executioner.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781492306795
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Publishing
  • Publication date: 9/2/2013
  • Pages: 350
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.73 (d)

Meet the Author

Susanne Alleyn has loved history all her life, aided and abetted by her grandmother, Lillie V. Albrecht, an author of historical children's books in the 1950s and 60s. Susanne is the author of the Aristide Ravel historical mystery series, set in revolutionary Paris; A FAR BETTER REST, the reimagining of Dickens's A TALE OF TWO CITIES; the nonfiction MEDIEVAL UNDERPANTS AND OTHER BLUNDERS: A WRITER'S (AND EDITOR'S) GUIDE TO KEEPING HISTORICAL FICTION FREE OF COMMON ANACHRONISMS, ERRORS, AND MYTHS; and A TALE OF TWO CITIES: A READER'S COMPANION, an annotated guide to the classic novel. Happy to describe herself as an "insufferable knowitall" about historical trivia, Susanne has been writing about and researching eighteenth-century and revolutionary France for nearly three decades. Read more at www.susannealleyn.com.
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 18, 2013

    The Executioners Heir

    Very good prequel. About the French executioner and his son, jean baptiste sansun, his son was charles jean baptiste sansun. Excellent historical france 18th and 19th century. Action packed, a small amount of love scenes. Graphic in violence. I give this five stars and plan to buy the full version. A 100+ pages free. Not bad. I read in a setting. Can't wait to get the full version.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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