Today’s team review comes from Cathy, she blogs at http://betweenthelinesbookblog.wordpress.com
Cathy chose to read and review At Road’s End by Zoe Saadia
Tecpatl, a proud warrior, is reduced to the role of guide to a group of traders who are far beneath him in the hierarchy of the Azcapotzalco people from the shores of Lake Texcoco. An error of judgement means Tecpatl is disgraced and has to vindicate himself by accompanying and protecting the merchants, although he longs to return home as war is imminent. On their way through the canyons the party discover the slaughtered inhabitants of a village, littered across the canyon floor. There is one survivor, a young woman called Sakuna, whose father, an important person in his community of Great Houses, arranged her marriage to a man from the ravaged village.
Sakuna guides Tecpatl and the merchants to her father’s home in Great Houses. The cliff dwelling Anasazi are a reasonably peaceful people, happy to farm the land and use the crops as sacrifices to the gods. Their philosophy and lack of social status is incomprehensible to Tecpatl who, as well as a strict class system, recognises blood sacrifices as an established custom. Sakuna can’t comprehend Tecpatl’s warrior nature and it seems the two have no common ground.
Sakuna’s father wants Tecpatl to take the merchants on another trip while they wait to trade until after the Summer Solstice, eight days away. But trouble is coming to Great Houses. Tecpatl believes the settlement is about to be attacked by the same band of warriors who ravaged the village and needs to convince the leaders to take action before it is too late. This proves to be an onerous task.
I have little to no knowledge of Mesoamerican history but Zoe Saadia has a wonderful ability to transport me, through extremely well researched and vivid stories, to times long past. The attention to the details of life, the customs and culture of the characters is comprehensive and incredibly interesting, showing the vast differences, both in social behaviour and way of life, between the populations of the time. The suggestion of how the Anasazi race ceased to exist is an interesting one and could easily be as near to the truth as any other proposed explanation.
Tecpatl and Sakuna are well-developed characters, both fiery, strong and stubborn and the development of their relationship is completely realistic. Their story is based around historical facts during a time characterised by turbulence and unrest, just before the Aztecs’ rise to power. The world building is impressive, as is the amount of research, coupled with the inventiveness and imagery of the narrative. The historical and cultural dictates are woven in to the story smoothly and cleverly from the differing perspectives of the protagonists.
I’m looking forward to following on with the series.