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Lady of Palenque: Flower of Bacal, Mesoamerica, A.D. 749 (The Royal Diaries) Hardcover – April 1, 2004
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From School Library Journal
Grade 4-6–ShahnaK'in Yaxchel Pacal, "Princess Green Jay on the Wall," is the daughter of King Hanaab Pacal of Lakamha City (now Palenque). She will become a "xoc," or reader and accountant, to her royal husband, as her mother was before her. Princess Green Jay is betrothed to K'ak Yipyaj Chan K'awil, "King Fire Keeper," in Xukpi (modern Copan). This alliance allows the author to discuss the varying terrains and political situations in Mesoamerica in A.D. 749, as Princess Green Jay and her entourage travel across the Mayan empire to her new home. However, the protagonist's diary entries provide only the briefest look into this culture and history; and many things, such as their intricate dating system, go unexplained. Also, because the characters are called by many names and parts of names, it's difficult to find a specific entry in the glossary, and there are no pronunciation guides.–Lynda S. Poling, Long Beach Public Library, CA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Gr. 6-9. This entry in the Royal Diaries series takes readers to 749 C.E. Mesoamerica. Thirteen-year-old princess ShahnaK'in Yaxchel Pacal is chosen to marry the King of Xuchpi. First, though, the spoiled princess faces a long journey to her new home, which, as it turns out, brings her face to face with everything from natural disasters to human enemies. The text is dense, and Kirwan's descriptive prose has an archaic flavor; readers may struggle with the vocabulary and transliterated names (the appended glossary lacks pronunciations). What readers will like best is ShahnaK'in herself, an animated, independent character, whose commentary incorporates interesting details of Mayan culture (including descriptions of shrunken heads and body piercing that may make some readers shudder) as well as a sense of universal issues--from homesickness to developing self-reliance. Supporting materials include historical background, a family tree, and notes; illustrative material was not available in the galley. Shelle Rosenfeld
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Top Customer Reviews
The book is actually very well done. Unlike the other Royal Diaries, the writing really is authentic to the Mayan era it is set in. In books such as Weetamoo and Sondok, it is obvious the author is trying to re-construct the writing style of the character's culture & time, but in Lady of Palenque, the writing really is convincing. The entire book reads lyrically and poetically and the culture of the Maya is deeply rooted in the Lady's words. This can be both a good and a bad thing. While it makes the book seem more real and more like it would be an account of the time, it must be kept in mind that middle school kids are the people reading these books. And your average middle schooler isn't a Mayan scholar, so most of the references and cultural items in this book are going to be unfamiliar and will confuse the reader for there are whole paragraphs that center on references to Mayan culture, forcing the reader to re-read the paragraph over and over again to try and put the Lady's words into today's understanding.
I think something that does bother some people is the fact that the author keeps switching from authentic Mayan names to English translations. For example, one page you'll have Lady Palmtrees and the next you'll have an elongated authentic Mayan name. And unfortunately, there are no pronunciation guides so the reader has to sound out the name as they think it should be said (we do get the hint, on the first page, that the 'x' makes a 'sh' sound). And, let's face it, sometimes the English versions of the names seem like a joke. For example, Lord Cocoa Beans. It just doesn't sound serious.
There are some problems with this book, but I think it was overall a decent book. The story isn't really that exciting, though. Basically, the Lady spends 30 pages in Lakamha (Palenque) and then travels all across the Yucatan peninsula and the coast before arriving at the closing of the book in Xukpi (Copan). There are stops along the way, such as in Mutal, a major city of the area, and an unexpected hurrican leaves the traveling parties stranded on islands off the coast. The plot is basically that Lady of Palenque has been chosen to marry the king of Copan, Fire Keeper, to provide a relationship between the cities of Palenque and Copan against enemy forces (we find out in the historical note that this was done by many cities at the time for the same reason). Many of the characters aren't fully formed, and rather symbolize different traits. But this is faulty, for it is hard to feel the Lady's pain when a close friend of her's is lost at sea during a hurricane for he was never 3-dimensional character to the reader. The only truly formed character is the Lady herself, who is not easily hated but is also not the most enjoyable Royal Diaries central character.
Basically, this book does have faults but it also does have many good things about it. I think one reviewer said 'this is not a Royal Diaries book'. Well, I have to agree. I think this book could have been a lone novel, because, unlike the other 16 books in the series at this point, this book really does transport you back to the time and place of the character as none of the others do and the writing is so different that it easily could be excluded from the other more non-accurate writing styles of the other diaries.
A decent read, though not the best of the series. And give it some time, I'd advise you.
I encourage readers to try this beautiful book. I think the author is really smart. I learned alot about Mayan culture and now I want to learn more.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
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