Rosie’s book Review Team #RBRT At Road’s End by @ZoeSaadia #Aztec #bookreview

Today’s team review comes from Cathy, she blogs at http://betweenthelinesbookblog.wordpress.com

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Cathy chose to read and review At Road’s End by Zoe Saadia

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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.

Find a copy here from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Rosie’s Book review Team #RBRT Noelle Reviews The Young Jaguar by @ZoeSaadia #Aztecs

Today’s team review comes from Noelle, she blogs at http://saylingaway.wordpress.com

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Noelle chose to read and review The Young Jaguar by Zoe Saadia

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Book Review: The Young Jaguar by Zoe Saadia

 

The Young Jaguar by Zoe Saadia is the first book in a pre-Aztec trilogy, and introduces us to Atolli, a teenager in the Tepenic Empire of Central America, whose father is Tecpatl, the Chief Warlord. Prior to the rise of the Aztec Empire, this Empire was strong and growing. Tecpatl’s position is very high within the social structure and he is very content, having returned from a series of successful wars, and he loves his family. His wife, Sakuna, followed Tecpatl home when he warred in her native land of the Anasazis, and theirs is a deep and respectful love that has withstood the criticism of the Tepenic elite. Atolli is a hot-headed daredevil, who climbs the walls of the palace with the skill and cunning of a jaguar, just for fun.

The story begins when Atolli, his best friend Mecatl and some other adventurous boys from the warrior school that Atolli attends, roam the palace walls at night, drinking octli, a potent drink reserved for the warriors of the tribe. This is a serious transgression, but an adventure they have taken before. This time, they are discovered and chased and Atolli and Mecatl fall over the wall into one of the palace gardens. There they meet Chictli, the beautiful daughter of the second son of the Emperor, and Atolli is smitten.

His position as Tecpatl’s son saves him from serious punishment, but he has to vow to support Chictli’s father in the future as one of his warriors. At the same time, the Emperor dies, making Tecpatl vow to support his first son as the new Emperor, thus putting him at odds not only with his son, but much of the Tepenic elite. Tecpatl is thus forced to choose between his duty to the new Emperor and his family, which ultimately puts them all in danger. Sakuna uses her skill with herbs and healing to deal with the crisis.

I become completely immersed in Zoe Saadia’s historical novels. The characters come alive; because of her detailed research on everything involved in tribal life – customs, food, clothing , jewelry – the reader feels like they are there, amidst the action. Family dynamics, especially in this book, are very recognizable, even though the tribal dynamics are complex. Zoe makes it clear that people haven’t changed much over the centuries: they are greedy, power-hungry, loving, driven, devious, envious, bored and frustrated. These emotions fuel this story.

I highly recommend this book to any lover of historical fiction but more widely to any reader who likes a barn burner of a story with great characters and lots of action. What’s even better is that you can follow Atolli on his journey to adulthood through the next book in the series, The Jaguar Warrior.

Zoe Saadia is the author of two trilogies and one series (11 full-length novels), all covering the turbulent history of Mesoamerica when the Aztecs were busy coming to power. All are based on more than a decade of research of pre-contact cultures. She is convinced this history of the Americas has been completely overlooked, and she brings it to life through her writing.

She has also written The Peacemaker Series of four books, stories surrounding the creation of the famous Iroquois Confederacy, one of the oldest democracies on earth. I reviewed Two Rivers, one of these books, in a previous post.

When I can fit them into my copious free time, I intend to read all of these!

You can find a copy of this book here from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

 

Rosie’s Book Review Team #RBRT Jessie reviews The Highlander by Zoe Saadia

Today we have a review from Jessie, she blogs at http://behindthewillows.com/

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Jessie chose to read and review The Highlander by Zoe Saadia

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The Highlander by Zoe Saadia

Can you say… Tenochtitlan, Tepanecs, Tlaxcala and Nezahualcoyotl three times fast?

Yeah, me neither.

But at least now I know what they are! (An Aztec capital, a mesoamerican tribe, a town, and an heir to Texcoco, in case you were wondering.)

The Highlander jumps right to the story, immerses it in history and never pauses to lecture on the subject. This can be a bit confusing when mesoamerica circa 1400’s is completely new to you (as it was to me) but worth it. If given the choice between initial confusion and interrupting the flow of a story to give a history lesson, I’ll choose initial confusion every time. And, as happens in well done historical fiction, by the end of this fairly short book I had many of the unfamiliar terms, towns and people sorted out in my brain – even if I still can’t pronounce a single one of them.

Saadia is also great at writing adolescent boys. The trouble is adolescent boys are not my favorite. Teenage boys were annoying when I was a teenager, and they haven’t gotten less so just because they are fictional. And, yes, because my husband asked, I didn’t even like Harry Potter that much during his teenage years. And, no, in case you are wondering I didn’t know my husband when he was that age. And, no, I will not speculate on what I might have thought of him then.  The two main characters in this story are boys brimming with adolescent, angst-ey, angry, hormonal, warrior energy. All their boy shenanigans are a great way to tell the story, immerse the reader in history and keep it exciting. It’s just that all those warrior hormones seem to get in the way of other things – like brains. I found myself yelling at them, “Seriously boys, what are you doing? Just think!” Initially I thought perhaps they could have been written differently but then I remembered back to when I spent time with fifteen year old boys – and figured she was writing them just right.

Would I recommend it? I loved learning some of the history of a place and time entirely new to me and the book does have a pretty fantastic female character hiding in the wings but those boys… I just don’t love those boys…

Find a copy here from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com