Heart of a Jaguar

Marc Talbert, Author Atheneum Books $16 (0p) ISBN 978-0-689-80282-9
It's no mean feat to devise a gripping yet unsentimental tale about a 13th-century Mayan youth who agrees to have his heart ripped out in a sacrificial rite. Talbert (Dead Birds Singing; A Sunburned Prayer), however, rises to the challenge: he creates a resonant coming-of-age story while respectfully illuminating a culture that, to modern eyes, at first appears remote and barbarous. Severe drought is threatening the denizens of the forest on the Yucatan Peninsula, among them the tribe of Balam, the protagonist. At 14, Balam is anxious to prove his manhood and move into the palapa, or hut, provided for the tribe's bachelors. But there are more pressing concerns: a neighboring tribe kidnaps Balam's betrothed and later steals his family's sacred maize. Balam tags along when the bachelors set out on a retaliatory raid, but gets lost in the forest, where a nighttime encounter with a jaguar marks him as a man at last-and as the only person whose death will appease the gods and the rival tribe. Graphic descriptions of ceremonial bloodletting and other grisly rites, though matter-of-fact, reserve this vividly realized and well-researched novel for non-squeamish readers only. Ages 12-up. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 10/02/1995
Release date: 10/01/1995
Genre: Children's
Prebound-Other - 216 pages - 978-0-606-11450-9
Hardcover - 978-0-689-89018-5
Paperback - 216 pages - 978-0-689-81332-0
Hardcover - 978-0-671-89018-6
Prebound-Other - 978-0-613-02201-9
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