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A Scattering of Jades Hardcover – July 5, 2002

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Editorial Reviews Review

Alexander C. Irvine makes a strong debut with A Scattering of Jades, a novel that can be read with equal validity as fantasy, alternate history, or secret history. In 1835, an attempted human sacrifice goes awry, sparking a fire that consumes much of Manhattan and destroys journalist Archie Prescott's home and family. Stephen Bishop, a slave exploring a Kentucky cave system, discovers a peculiar Aztec mummy that seems, sometimes, to move. A complex conspiracy involving Aaron Burr, P.T. Barnum, Tammany Hall, Irish gangsters, and a traveling medicine man will bring together Archie, Stephen, an accursed girl who may be Archie's daughter, and ferocious Aztec deities in the underworld of Mammoth Cave, in an epic struggle that will determine the fate of the earth. --Cynthia Ward

From Publishers Weekly

Thanks to its vivid 19th-century setting, this debut horror novel rises considerably above the average. In the great New York fire of 1835 that kills his wife, newspaper typesetter Archie Prescott thinks he's also lost his four-year-old daughter, Jane. But Jane has survived, hideously scarred and kidnapped by Riley Steen, who once worked for P.T. Barnum. Steen possesses a chacmool, a Mesoamerican mummy through which a proper sacrifice will bring the god Tlaloc to rule the world. That proper sacrifice is Jane Prescott. By 1843, once Prescott realizes that he's in danger and that Jane is alive, he pursues her and Steen down the Ohio River to Mammoth Cave, where Steen found the chacmool years before. After a nightmare journey facing both human and occult menaces, Prescott confronts those who seek his daughter's blood. With the help of a guide, the slave Stephen Bishop (willing to risk his chances of freedom to prevent Jane's murder), he attempts to snatch Jane back to safety. While the plot may be fairly standard, with its theme of "old gods seeking revenge/return," Irving provides a fascinating, unromanticized picture of P.T. Barnum's early career, the bloodthirsty gangs of New York, life on the Ohio River and the precarious condition of even the most privileged slaves. The characterization is nearly as accomplished as the historiography, and the two together make the book an exceedingly solid achievement, with a great deal of promise for the author's future.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books; 1st edition (July 5, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765301164
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765301161
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.4 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,197,513 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Alex Irvine has written more than thirty books, both his own original fiction (Buyout, The Narrows, Mystery Hill, A Scattering of Jades) and licensed work for Marvel, Hasbro, Warner Brothers, Fox, Blizzard, Legendary, and other international entertainment companies. He has also written comics (Daredevil Noir, Iron Man: Rapture, Hellstorm, Son of Satan: Equinox), games, and animation. The three games he's currently writing -- Marvel Avengers Alliance, Marvel War of Heroes, and Marvel PuzzleQuest -- together have totaled more than 75 million players. Before leaving to write full time, he spent six years as an English professor at the University of Maine. A native of Ypsilanti, Michigan, he lives in South Portland, Maine, with his wife and three children...and two dogs, a bird, a snake and a fish. You can find him on Twitter or Facebook.

Favorite writers, in no particular order: Cervantes, Borges, Murakami, Dick, Pynchon, Herriman, Chaucer, Kelly. Ask me again tomorrow, the list would be slightly different.

Some favorite books, not written by people on the previous list (but all written by people who might have been on the list on a different day), and again in no particular order: Sarah Canary, Gould's Book of Fish, Geek Love, Midnight's Children, Song of Solomon...

More at Twitter (@alexirvine) and Facebook.

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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See all 13 customer reviews
I look forward to Mr. Irvine's next book.
Matthew R. Aptekar
There are authors who write well and there are authors who are good story-tellers; few it seems are both.
D.E. Casey Jones
The result is a mage's journey across the U.S., from New York City to the Mammoth Cave in far Kentucky.
Marc Ruby™

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By John Klima on July 8, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Alex Irvine's writing carries a maturity that most writers don't reach for several novels. It's incredible to think that he's this good out of the gate. This book is on par with other first novels, SONG OF KALI by Dan Simmons and NEUROMANCER by William Gibson, although those books are of a different genre than SCATTERING OF JADES.
The writing in this novel is very reminiscent of Charles de Lint or Tim Powers; magical, earthy, and powerful. I really enjoy novels that pull real historical figures into them and this book seamlessly blends reality and fantasy.
Irvine is a writer you will hear from for a long time. This book should be on your must-read list for this year.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Patrick Burnett on January 24, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Let me tell you where I'm coming from.

I bought Alexander Irvine's "A Scattering of Jades" because of the many reviewers suggesting a story reminiscent of Tim Powers, but I should have known better. That's like buying Klaatu because they sound a little like The Beatles. What you're hoping for is that pure, cherry high you felt the first time you loaded "Revolver" onto your turntable, but what you get is, well, Klaatu. Not that it's bad, it's just not what you wanted.

So I'm giving you permission to disregard this review; as a fan of Tim Powers (Fan? No. Admirer. Devotee. Stalker.) I was hoping for a fully-conceived universe, a true secret history of the world in which we live, an organized and internally consistent system of magic. What I got was "A Scattering of Jades".

This novel really has nothing to do with history, other than taking place in the nineteenth century. Some obvious historical figures pop in from time to time, like Edgar Poe, PT Barnum and Aaron Burr, but their presences are perfunctory, slickly professional rather than enlightening or surprising. The author makes repeated references to Burr's desire to rule the United States, but this idea is merely a jumping off point for the story rather than pivotal information.

The main character, Archie Prescott, is a typesetter for a New York paper who dreams of being a journalist, but the sudden death of his wife and daughter send him spiraling into depression. Sadly, most of this book follows Archie around as he stumbles into trouble again and again, never really rising to the challenges facing him.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Marc Ruby™ HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on October 1, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I select my 'next book to read' by picking through what it waiting on my shelves and reading a few pages here and there. It is a rare experience when a book I start out to take a quick look at suddenly becomes the one I am reading to the exclusion of all else. Of course, authors who can pick up a mythology and create a compelling and original story out of it are equally uncommon. Alexander Irvine is not the first who has essayed the fertile ground of Aztec legend, but, by setting the story in the U.S. of the 1840's, a deeper and more modern significance than one would anticipate. This is a tale about monsters, but it is not a monster story.
The story turns on the awakening of a chacmool, an Aztec avatar of the god Tlaloc, who seeks to recreate the world via a series of magical acts and a final sacrifice. Set against the machinations of Riley Steen, who has prepared the way for the chacmool is Archie Prescott, who lost his wife and daughter Jane in fires magically set to mark the young girl as the intended sacrifice. Completely distracted by the loss, Prescott is at his nadir when a sequence of events reveals to him that Jane is still alive and provides him with a new purpose to his life. A series of eerie encounters sets him on Jane's path in an effort to prevent the sacrifice.
The result is a mage's journey across the U.S., from New York City to the Mammoth Cave in far Kentucky. At each step in this mythic journey, he meets adversity, and enemies as inconstant as are his friends. Seemingly random events flow together for him in an almost foreordained pattern.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By booksforabuck VINE VOICE on September 13, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Aaron Burr is dead and the memory of his aborted attempt to create an empire in the west is largely faded, yet some remember. Riley Steen knows that Burr's hopes were based on Aztec mythology, on an ancient god whose mystic calendar is now coming due. With skill and planning, Steen intends to create what Burr failed at--and is willing to pay any price to make it happen. Printer Archie Prescott knows that his daughter is dead, that the crazy girl who calls him 'da' cannot be Jane. Yet he involves himself with a strange mezo-American mummy that comes to life in New York. Torn by images of destruction, and followed by Steen's killers, Archie heads from New York, across 19th century America, to the Mammoth caves of Kentucky where the magic of the great cycle is taking place and where a new world may be created. Slave Stephen Bishop yearns for a freedom that will never be given him. The emerging god offers him freedom for himself and his children, but only in return for a high price. Only Stephen knows the caves well enough to prevent the magic--or to protect the god.
Author Alexander C. Irvine creates a powerful alternate history where magic works unseen to most, but remains powerful. Irvine's images of the world of the dead, where the dead's belief in the gods they created continue to sustain the gods' powers is strong and compelling. Irvine's world could be our own, yet zombies walk and gods carve their way into men's hearts. The skillful use of the somewhat obscure history of Aaron Burr's attempted empire (since history was written by Burr's enemies, we may never know his real motivations and goals), gives A SCATTERING OF JADES a verisimilitude that definitely adds to the reader's enjoyment
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