cover image Aztec-20mxdp


Gary Jennings. Tor Books, $24 (378pp) ISBN 978-0-8125-3948-6

This long-awaited sequel to Jennings's bestselling Aztec is another assiduously researched, richly detailed and robust re-creation of a little-known era of ancient history on our continent. Here, Jennings chronicles the life of Tenamaxtli, an Aztec noble who grew up when North America was being colonialized by the Conquistadors of Spain. Tenamaxtli's home of Aztlan was left untouched by the Spaniards, but, having heard of the ""white men,"" Tenamaxtli travels with his uncle (then ruler of Aztlan) and mother to the city of Mexico to see their nemeses and the threat they posed. Upon arrival, the three are herded among a group of other ""indios"" to witness the burning of a heretic at the stake. Soon thereafter, Tenamaxtli discovers that the condemned man was his father, whom he had never known. Thus begins his quest to find a weakness in the Spanish army, form an army of his own people and eventually defeat the invaders and avenge his father's death. With his vigorous prose and clearly visualized details, Jennings brings readers back in time to that world. Descriptions of landscape and culture, gruesome battle scenes and executions, have convincing immediacy. Showing us the transformation of North America through the eyes of native people, he never portrays them as stereotypically primitive. The only jarring digressions in the book are the strange and numerous sexcapades of Tenamaxtli, including his tenure in two different villages where he's the only capably virile male available for months on end--and where he takes it as his duty to service and ""teach"" every woman in town. Overall, however, this is riveting historical fiction written with wonderful force. (Aug.)