The Young Jaguar (Pre-Aztec Trilogy Book 1) Kindle Edition
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The story begins when Atolli, his best friend Mecatl and some other adventurous boys from the warrior school that Atolli attends, roam the palace walls at night, drinking octli, a potent drink reserved for the warriors of the tribe. This is a serious transgression, but an adventure they have taken before. This time, they are discovered and chased and Atolli and Mecatl fall over the wall into one of the palace gardens. There they meet Chictli, the beautiful daughter of the second son of the Emperor, and Atolli is smitten.
His position as Tecpatl's son saves him from serious punishment, but he has to vow to support Chictli's father in the future as one of his warriors. At the same time, the Emperor dies, making Tecpatl vow to support his first son as the new Emperor, thus putting him at odds not only with his son, but much of the Tepenic elite. Tecpatl is thus forced to choose between his duty to the new Emperor and his family, which ultimately puts them all in danger. Sakuna uses her skill with herbs and healing to deal with the crisis.
I become completely immersed in Zoe Saadia's historical novels. The characters come alive; because of her detailed research on everything involved in tribal life - customs, food, clothing , jewelry - the reader feels like they are there, amidst the action. Family dynamics, especially in this book, are very recognizable, even though the tribal dynamics are complex. Zoe makes it clear that people haven't changed much over the centuries: they are greedy, power-hungry, loving, driven, devious, envious, bored and frustrated. These emotions fuel this story.
I highly recommend this book to any lover of historical fiction but more widely to any reader who likes a barn burner of a story with great characters and lots of action. What's even better is that you can follow Atolli on his journey to adulthood through the next book in the series, The Jaguar Warrior.
This is why I love reading Indie. Supporting authors who don't have the traditional support system makes me feel good, and I can get just as excited about an Indie book as I can with a traditionally published book.
The plot, though not the most unique, comes alive because of the characters, specifically the three main characters. Another review mentioned that the characters weren't well fleshed out, but I totally disagree. Each of the characters, both major and minor, are unique. Their actions aren't all dictated by the same cookie-cutter, bland personality you find in some books. In fact, the actions and decisions of the three main characters, members of the same family, often kept me on the edge of my seat.
Although it isn't absolutely necessary to understand what's going on, reading At Road's End before this one did help. Not only was I familiar with some of the characters, but I could see the growth of these characters. Comparing the two books, I will say that the characterization in this book is better than the first, though if you've read my review of the other book, you know I enjoyed that one as well.
And one other thing that I like that some other reviewers turn their nose up at: the historical aspects aren't overwhelming. You get a taste for the time period without having to completely immerse yourself in it. I would classify this as light historical, so if you're a fan of detailed, extremely accurate historical novels, you may not find Zoe's writing all that interesting. And I say you're missing out, for I think I will eventually read everything that Zoe has published. She's definitely on my favorite author list.