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Servant of the Underworld: Obsidian & Blood, Book 1 Mass Market Paperback – October 26, 2010

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Product Details

  • Series: Obsidian & Blood (Book 1)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Angry Robot (October 26, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0857660314
  • ISBN-13: 978-0857660312
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 4.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #510,330 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"An Aztec priest of the dead tries to solve a murder mystery, and finds that politics may be even more powerful than magic. A vivid portrayal of an interesting culture in a truly fresh fantasy novel." - Kevin J. Anderson, New York Times bestselling co-author of The Winds of Dune

"Amid the mud and maize of the Mexica empire, Aliette de Bodard has composed a riveting story of murder, magic and sibling rivalry." - Elizabeth Bear

"Highly recommended... Ms. de Bodard is a writer to watch." - Fantasy Book Critic

"Part murder mystery, part well-researched historical novel and part fantasy... The fantasy element blends neatly with the other parts. 4****" - SFX Magazine

"Servant of the Underworld
takes its historical setting and the mythology of the Aztecs seriously... the title page suggests this is the first volume of "Obsidian and Blood." If Aliette de Bodard can continue as well as she has started, Acatl deserves to become as well known as that other priestly investigator, Cadfael." - Duncan Lawie, Strange Horizons

"It’s fascinating stuff, about fascinating stuff." - John Scalzi, Whatever

"Aliette De Bodard is the hottest rising star in world SF and Fantasy, blending ancient crimes with wild imagination." - Aleksandra's Corner

"[De Bodard's] mastery of atmospherics and flowing prose envelopes readers in the darkness of this ancient, sacred world where earth, jade, and sacrificial animals materialize before your eyes and penetrate your bones. Servant of the Underworld is an immersion into a little-known culture worthy of a fictionalized revitalization."

Praise for Aliette's short fiction: 

"The plot is concise yet intricate, the dialogue is superb, and the writing flows naturally" - The Fix (reviewing "Lonely Heart" from Black Static, 2009)

"Beautifully written... the issue's most compelling and elegantly composed drama." - Tangent Online (reviewing "Deer Flight" from Interzone)

"The quality of de Bodard's writing shines through" - The Fix (reviewing "Dragon Feasts" from Andromeda Spaceways)

"It's one of those stories where to write too much about it would rob the reader of much of the pleasure." - The Fix (reviewing "Horus Ascending" from Intergalactic Medicine Show)

"This is the kind of alternate history I love, well researched, well written ... well paced and fascinating in it’s depth of immersion in a culture most of us know little to nothing about." - On Wings of Imagination

"Steeped in Aztec mythology and culture, it’s refreshing to read a story that is set in a time so rarely used as a fictional setting. With its complex plot, interesting cast of characters, and magical mystery, Servant of the Underworld makes a great first installment to the Obsidian and Blood series." -

About the Author

Aliette de Bodard is a writer and computer specialist whose short fiction has already brought her a John W Campbell Award nomination, for best newcomer.

Aliette is French, of Vietnamese extraction, but she writes exclusively in English. The author lives in Paris, France.

More About the Author

Aliette de Bodard is a half-French, half-Vietnamese computer and history geek who lives in Paris. In her spare time, she writes speculative fiction. Her short stories have appeared in many venues, including Asimov's, Interzone and the Year's Best Science Fiction.
She has a special interest in non-Western civilisations, particularly Ancient Vietnam, Ancient China and Ancient Mesoamerica. Her trilogy Obsidian and Blood is set in Ancient Mexico, and she is currently working on an urban fantasy set in Paris.

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Acts of violence and explicit sex, although implied, are not visible.
Keith W. Harvey
It's presented as if this is what the world would be like if the Aztec religion was real - the world would have magic and jealous gods maneuvering for supremacy.
A great book if you like historical fiction, the older the era the better, and fantasy/mythology, and mysteries, and especially all mixed together.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on October 29, 2010
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
I was surprised to find that no one else had left a review until I remembered that all the other reviews I read were on the Amazon UK site....

I read a short-story by this author in a recent _Asimov's_ magazine, and it was good enough to make me look to see what else the author had published.

As a fantasy novel, this is pretty good. What if the Aztec myths were true? What if human sacrifices were required to keep the Sun in the sky?

As an historical fiction novel, it's not quite complete: we don't know really that much about the Aztec's (pre-conquest). However, this does give some feel for what could have been. I should say that all I know about the Aztecs comes from playing Civ 5 and visiting Mayan ruins in Mexico (which, duh, aren't Aztec!).

As a mystery novel, it's not quite fulfilling: the whodunit is exposed without any teasers beforehand (it'd be impossible to know based on clues).

This is kinda like a steampunk novel, but without the steam and without the punk--a cross-genre meld more along the lines of Cook's Garrett series. Perhaps obsidian-noir?

I found the main character engaging--his coming of age is one of taking on responsibilities that are thrust upon him by society as a man in his '30s. Entwined with this is a coming-of-age story of a young man trying to make his place in society, and another whose fatalism destroys his previous life but paves the way for him to make another (perhaps for this character it's a second-chance novel).

The British reviews are full of complaints about the hard-to-pronounce names of some of the characters. Coming from a country where "Thames" is prounounced "Tims" and "Leicester" only has 2 syllables (How many does Worcestershire have?), the complaints seem kinda whiny.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Heather F on March 9, 2012
Format: Mass Market Paperback
There are pros and cons about this book. I will start with the pros.

First and foremost, holy crap, it's about the Aztecs!!! I love, love, LOVE that! If you love pre-Columbian civilizations like I do, then you should read this book.

For the most part, I was impressed by the research about the Aztec civilization that author obviously conducted before writing this book. While she did use artistic liscence, and there were a few minor inaccuracies (capybaras and guinea pigs in Tenochtitlan?), this story paints a vivid and believable picture of the ancient empire.

I laud the author for writing this, especially when most fantasy is European-biased, and pre-Columbian civilization is usually ignored. I was excited to see how she tied conventional fantasy themes of magic and the supernatural into an Aztec setting, and she did a very good job of it. I encourage all fantasy fans to look for fantasy novels set in non-Western cultures, and this book is a prime example!

Now for the cons.

The very thing that I like most about this book - the Aztec setting - may actually dissuade some readers who are not nearly as nerdy for ancient Mesoamerica as I am. The author has clearly learned a lot about ancient Mexico, but she writes the book as though it is for an audience that is also familiar with it. For instance, I imagine that some readers might get confused about which god is which, if they have never heard of any of them before. And there are other examples... I know that a "Jaguar Day" occurs once in every 20 days, and therefore 1 out of 20 people might be able to summon a nagual. But this was never stated in the book, and while it is relevant to the opening chapters, most readers probably won't know that.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on April 21, 2013
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is a really excellent book, definitely something different. So why didn't I give it four or five stars? I can't see myself re-reading it. This is a whodunit murder mystery set in the time of the Aztec empire. While the aspects of sorcery and religion are really intriguing, they aren't the main focus of the story. This is neither good nor bad, but they were what held my attention the most.

Where this book falls a tad short is story. It's a really fun book, but the story gets weak in places. The characterization, on the other hand, is very good. It carries this book and does it well, something that seems to be hard to find these days.

Part of the reason I'm not as enthusiastic about this book as many reviewers is that I'm not a big of the whodunit murder mystery most of the time. I read this because of the setting and the characters, not because of the murder mystery. There are elements of politics in this book as well, but not a lot of it. Much of that takes place off-screen, with the characters dealing with the consequences of said politics.

I'd still highly recommend it. I'll probably pick up the sequels at some point, because I want to see what happens next with the characters. I've gotten rather attached to the main character, watching him grow and learn in this book.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Fred L. Warren on May 19, 2011
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
It is the year One-Knife in the Aztec calendar, in the age of the Fifth World, sometime in the 1400's. Acatl, High Priest of Michtlantechuhtli, god of the dead, is summoned to the scene of what appears to be a murder. The bedchamber of Eleuia, a priestess of the fertility goddess Xochiquetzal, has been ransacked and is spattered in blood, presumably the missing Eleuia's.

The facts of the case seem simple enough, but Acatl senses a miasma of magic hanging in the room and identifies it as the lingering traces of a nahual, a jaguar spirit, conjured by the attacker. There's a chance the victim was carried off by the nahual and may still be alive.

Unfortunately, Acatl has two problems. The trail of the nahual vanishes near the wall of the compound, and a suspect in the attack is already in custody-Acatl's brother Neutemoc was discovered in the priestess' room, his hands covered in blood, without memory of why he was there or what happened. If Acatl is to solve this crime, clear his brother's name, and rescue Eleuia, he'll have to confront forces both natural and supernatural that want Eleuia and Neutemoc dead. That means seeking help from Michtlantechuhtli and the other deities of the Aztec pantheon, but the Aztec gods are capricious, and their help always comes at a price.

If Acatl's lucky, all they'll want is blood.

In Servant of the Underworld, award-winning author Aliette de Bodard introduces us to an exotic culture unfamiliar to most speculative fiction readers. The Aztec people have been poorly depicted in film and fiction that comingles them with the Mayans and Incas and focuses on little beyond the cult of human sacrifice. Ms.
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