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Aztec Paperback – March 20, 2007
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The extraordinary story of the last and greatest native civilization of North America. It is a story told in the words of one of the most robust and memorable characters in modern fiction. His name is Mixtli-Dark Cloud. Rising above his lowly station, Mixtli's insatiable thirst for challenge and far horizons reveals the very heart of Aztec civilization from the feather-banner splendor of the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan to the arrival of Hernan Cortes and his conquistadores, and their destruction of the Aztec empire. A story of the Aztecs - a compelling, epic tale of heroic dignity and a colossal civilization's rise and fall. Los Angeles Times: "Anyone who reads, anyone who still lusts for adventure or that book you can't put down, will glory in Aztec." New York Times: "A dazzling and hypnotic historical novel." Gary Jennings was known for his intensive research, which often included rigorous and sometimes hazardous travel. He explored every corner of Mexico for his Aztec novels. He passed away in 1999.
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Mr. Jennings trilogy (Aztec, Aztec Blood and Aztec Autumn) give us a very good understanding about life in pre Colombian life in Mexico, what happened during the conquest, and how life was in the New Spain during the Spanish Colony. Using a very interesting narrative splashed with some sexual stories (if you get offended by those stories, please feel free to skip those; if you like the steamy stories, be sure to mark those to go back and read them at your leisure…)
Back in the early 80’s I meet Dr. Eduardo Matos Moctezuma (a prominent Mexican archaeologist. Who directed excavations at the Templo Mayor) at a book store in Mexico City. After I congratulated him for his great article in Scientific American about The Great Temple of Tenochtitlán (August 1984 ) I asked Dr. Matos if he had read Mr. Garry Jennings’s book Aztec. He said yes!
And I asked his opinion; he said: obviously the fictitious main character Mixtly, never existed; however, seem that Mr. Jennings did a good job researching the Aztecs life and it is full of details of the life at the time.
I can say that Mr. Gary Jennings started my interest in history. Too bad that I never meet him…
I was blown away.
This book made me laugh, cry, ponder, get shocked, get angry and get sad when it was over. I couldn't wait to get home from work every day to to dive into Mixtli's world. I'd fall asleep reading it and sneak in a couple of pages before getting out of bed. I had no idea if it was historically accurate nor did I care.
This book transported me right into that world...and what a magnificent world it was. I was all pleased with myself when places, gods and names became familiar to me and I no longer had to shuffle back to the original introduction to look up who was who.
Like most people, I could've lived without all the gratuitous sex scenes. As a 20 year old girl reading this book for the first time, a lot of it was ridiculous or seemingly physically impossible. But it didn't change the fact that it's one of the best books I've ever read. You can always skip a couple pages to avoid the sex, lol.
Actually, I'd be hard-pressed to say that I've since enjoyed a book as much as Aztec. I reread it every few years, it feels like visiting an old friend.
I so wish that there was a Kindle version. Although I have done it many times, it would be nice not to fall asleep on top of this very large hardcover book,lol. It makes unpleasant dents on your skin. A kindle version would the cherry on top.
The book is told both as a set of letters and in the first person, though the first person narrative takes up the majority of the work. The main character's journey takes him through the various strata of Aztec culture and, while I am no student of the Aztec civilization, it is rendered in living color and is really beautiful to behold. The characters are as human as you or I and by the end I was just wanted the story to continue onward.
I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It is engrossing, entertaining, and a hefty number of pages so it should keep you in reading comfort for quite some time.
The narrator himself is an interesting character. His scruples and values often fluctuate but he is a person of his time. His adventures enable the author to speculate about the surrounding tribal areas, the sexual behavior (there is plenty of this-some of which is hard to take as is the abundance of violence in the wars and ceremonies which are described) and the values of the civilizations he touches. He is a proud, highly achieving, adventurous man whose life is full of important and interesting encounters which occasionally are rather hard to identify with but which offer an entree into the life of the Aztec area. His cleverness is beautifully demonstrated by his comments about the Church of the priest/recorders and the similar values the "barbaric" Aztecs have with the "holy messengers of Jesus" and the Spanish church. There is subtle and often biting sarcasm injected into his story telling (almost Swiftian in quality.)
The book is 750 pages long, full of action and clever observation. It is not an easy read but the narrative flows smoothly and the writing is outstanding. I enjoyed the book so much, I felt empty when it ended for me. It will be a treat for any fan of history or of good writing. Although this is a work of fiction, the research that went into it makes it quite informative as well. I highly recommend it.