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A Forest of Kings: The Untold Story of the Ancient Maya Paperback – January 24, 1992

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Two Maya archeologists base this tale of war, expansion and ritual on recently deciphered Mayan hieroglyphics and artifacts. According to PW , the authors "vividly conjure the Maya world of cyclical time and multiple levels of reality, a universe where all things are alive with meaning." Illustrated.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

The mystique of the pre-Columbian Maya has prompted much speculation about the nature of this sophisticated people. With the recent breaking of their elaborate hieroglyphic code, Schele and Freidel, Mayan scholars of note, provide a new look at the Maya. Structured on sound scholarly principles, their presentation abounds in notes, references, indexes, and chronologies with profuse line-drawings of temple and other inscriptions. They devote a chapter to each of the major Mayan city-states. What makes this volume more accessible and of greater impact than the average scholarly study are the frequent vignettes of great events, kingly acts, etc., told dramatically, in a fictive but plausible style that allows the ancient Maya at last to speak for themselves. Recommended for informed laypersons, as well as specialist and YA readers. See also William Ferguson and others' Mesoamerica's Ancient Cities, reviewed in this issue, p. 122.--Ed.
- Jo-Ann D. Suleiman, Sanad Support Technologies, Rock ville, Md.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; 1st edition (January 24, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0688112048
  • ISBN-13: 978-0688112042
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 1.4 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #59,672 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

93 of 97 people found the following review helpful By Craig Matteson HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on February 4, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It is so sad that we have lost Linda Schele. But we can rejoice that we still have her wonderful books. This book is among her best. It is almost magical in the way she and David Freidel create the atmosphere of the Mayan culture. There are wonderful pictures and illustrations. She unfolds the stories of the archaeological discoveries and then helps us understand the real lives revealed in the evidence.

The book also shows how the Mayan glyphs and counting systems work. There are nowadays very good texts on the writing system itself, but this book shows us how the glyphs are woven into the culture and religion of these people. We learn how the lineage worked and how the monuments were used as what we would call propaganda to support one line over other possibilities. We learn about the role of magic and visions and the way the leaders were the empowered by those visions.

There is just so much here that any reader will be richly rewarded. The Mayan civilization is incredibly fascinating because it is so foreign to our own and yet it is a part of the heritage of the American continents.

This book isn't just a text, it is a work of art in itself. You will have a hard time putting it down.
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79 of 82 people found the following review helpful By J. B. Murphy on April 3, 2004
Format: Paperback
Of the various books available on Mayan culture that a layman has any chance of engaging profitably, this is one of the best. Detailed and well-organized, it presents a wealth of material on the subject, with plenty of accompanying illustrations that are well linked to the text, unlike other books which drop in pictures seemingly at random or which fail to explain why they are placed as they are. (Or, my personal favorite, those that assume you know why the picture is there, and what it's of, and don't bother to provide captions.)
If you're not afraid of "tomes," this is an excellent book for you, though it's not an introductory text. I'd recommend starting with something a little more basic before you tackle this fellow. But once you've familiarized yourself with the lay of the land regarding the Mayas, you won't find many books that cover so many different aspects of their life and culture in such a deep, dense way. You can feel these authors' love for their subject.
However, that being said, I must warn you this is a fairly dry book, and I am a reasonably tolerant reader when it comes to subjects I enjoy such as this one. It's chock full of great stuff, but its tone and style are heavily scholastic, so be prepared. It's still worth it. I have read any number of books thicker than this in a few sittings, but I found I retained more of the material and stayed more engaged by taking small bites of it over a few weeks.
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65 of 67 people found the following review helpful By Hilary Cable on July 11, 1998
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
When I was first introduced to "A Forest of Kings" by Linda Schele and David Freidel, I was, frankly, a bit suspicious. Another book on the Maya by a couple of well-meaning outsiders focusing on bloodletting and the mysterious ballcourts? I was surprised to find this book to be scholarly, highly readable and not goulishly focused on the bloodier aspects of this ancient culture. Their deft translation of Mayan pictographs and symbolism is very well done. The book is loaded with black and white line drawings of carvings and inscriptions with translations along side. There are detailed explanations of Mayan cosmology and an explanation of the calendar reputed to be the most accurate ever invented. It also includes extensive notes for each chapter. I don't know how else they could have been handled, but reading "A Forest of Kings" involved having several book marks at once, so I could read the notes, refer back to other illustrations and photos and keep my place in the text. Over all, it's fascinating reading for an amatuer who's fascinated with the Maya. I only wish I'd had this book when I visited the Yucatan!
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28 of 28 people found the following review helpful By David H. Webber on November 3, 2006
Format: Paperback
I bought this book prior to visiting the Mayan ruins at Copan, Honduras. I found it a very useful guide to the Mayan world. I have a purely amateur interest in the Mayas, with no academic background. I wish I had this book with me when I visited Tikal, Chichen Itza and other sites in Mexico. The book devotes a chapter each to the major Mayan sites such as the two I just mentioned, Palenque, Copan, and others. It provides basic cultural information about Mayan language and social structure, interspersed with interesting if unconventional narrative passages in which the writers imagine what a day in the life of a historical Mayan figure might have been like. Some might be put off by these passages, but I liked them well enough. You can read the book simply for general cultural background, or take it with you on a stela-by-stela tour of the ruins. At times, there was a bit too much detail for my purposes, but I would rather have too much information than too little, and mostly the amount of information was just right. The book also provides a few portraits of archaeologists who have devoted their lives to uncovering the history of the Mayas, including some discussion of the cracking of the Mayan Code. It was informative and a worthwhile read, particularly if you are planning a trip to see the ruins for yourself.
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