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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Feathered Serpent: A Novel of the Mexican Conquest by Colin Falconer

Very good, wonderful historical detail

Hernan Cortes (1485-1547)
In my mind, the Aztecs have been short-changed by modern authors. There has not been enough attention to them and their interesting story. And Cortes! If ever anyone should get high marks for having ambition and bravery in spades, it's him.

Anyway, the historical details are well done in the book. Falconer almost makes you feel like you are there with the Spanish as the arrive at the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan. He has created a multi-dimensional Cortes, rather than the stereotypical 'evil conqueror' Cortes (although, at the end I lost the feel for Cortes - I don't know if Falconer lost interest or he also lost his feel for the man). In most books and texts Cortes is portrayed as a gold-crazed, land-crazed conqueror - but his motivations are far more complex - including a complete disgust with the Mesoamerica's fascination with human sacrifice and the cannibalistic consumption of those sacrifices.

Unfortunately, Falconer's obsession with adding graphic, detailed sex scenes to his book just gets in the way. Another reviewer commented that there's one about every twenty pages - and I'd agree. We get all of the detail that adds nothing to the plot. I'm not trying to be a prude here - after all the main characters were considered to be the first to have a mestizo (mixed European and Native American) child so there's got to be some sex - but it was given such a prominent place in the book that I feel that it detracts from the work as a whole.

I rate this book 4 stars out of 5.

Reviewed June 18, 2005.

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