I want to understand why writing a review of When We Were Executioners is so difficult. Part of it has to do with how invested in the lives of Jona and Rachel I have become. Not only they, but also the two Walkers of Erin seem to have a profound effect on me. There is this area from my solar plexus to the tip of my chin that becomes warm and weepy just thinking about the quartet. Sometimes art does this to me. Whether I am dealing with happy art or sad art does not seem to make a difference.
When We Were Executioners falls within the last category. From the beginning of the serial Dogsland we know that Lord Joni doesn’t survive. We soon come to expect the same with Rachel, and in When We Were Executioners it seems impossible that her brother Djoss will make it either.
People die all the time. They die all the time in the city/town Dogsland – a city of crime if there ever was one. Drugs are its mainstay. Drugs come into the city and are sold and traded on to the citizens of Dogsland and other places. JM McDermott shows us the darker side of drugs, both from the point of view of the users, the dealers and lords – sometimes one and the same person. It is a path that many tread both in fantasy and in the real world. Addiction.
But then I suppose we all suffer from one sort of addiction or another. Some of us will do anything for affection while others will stop at nothing to get another shot of their drug of choice. It is all the same, and oh, so very sad. Maybe evolution needs us to be this way to keep the human race going.
Lord Joni and Rachel Nolander are both half-demons and a hunted minority. Perhaps with good reason, for anything their bodily fluids touch (except for each other) ends up disintegrating and sizzling away. Somehow that does not make sense for their fathers had to have sex with their mothers and there is certainly an exchange of bodily fluids at that time. But perhaps what goes for half-demons is not the case with full demons. Even in death Jona and Rachel are deadly. Keeping their remains (especially their skulls) for magical purposes will end up destroying the magician. But in the end that is the way we all go. Death is just another part of life that we try to avoid and forget.
Could this be another reason the Dogsland trilogy thus far has affected me so strongly? JM McDermott makes no attempt to hide death from us. Nor does he attempt to make it more or less than what it is. Thus far the deaths we have seen in this trilogy have been difficult and painful ones. I wonder what my own death will be like?