aztec-book-review

Aztec – A Book Review

aztec-book-reviewI thought this would be interesting, the story of Malinali, also known as La Malinche or Doña Marina, the infamous native woman who helped Cortez invade the land of the Mexica (Aztecs). Even today, this historical figure is still a topic for much debate in Mexico. Was she a traitor or a victim? Did she willingly help the Spanish invaders destroy her native civilization or was there more? What drove La Malinche to do what she did?

I have always wondered about her, and I always thought that history may have judged her too harshly. So, when I found her story on Kindle Unlimited, I was of course intrigued.

Synopsis

Malinali really existed. She was a woman from a Mayan tribe who was sold into slavery and who hated the Mexicas (who are now known as the Aztecs) because they had murdered her father. She was not alone, many tribes hated the Mexicas because of their cruelty, their insatiable demands for young men and women to offer as sacrifices to their gods, the tributes, …

When Hernan Cortez arrived in Mexico, Malinali was given to him as a gift. He soon realized her talent for understanding several dialects and local languages, and she became a very useful asset to him. Malinali interpreted for him when he spoke to local chiefs, thus helping him forge alliances with them to bring down the feared Mexica. She was instrumental in helping him defeat this once great nation.

My Thoughts

Careless Editing Job

confusedWhile the story was good, I thought that the editing left much to be desired. Of course, errors are common, even for the best editor, but I repeatedly noticed a few small mistakes. Sometimes there were sentences with missing words. A “the” or “of” could be missing, or something else. I would not mention it if it hadn’t caught my attention so many times. There were even some mistakes that left me wondering what was going on …

For example, towards the end of the book I read a discussion between Cortez and some of his men when suddenly someone called Le₡n says something. So, here even a c symbol is inserted in a name. When I leafed back to make sure I had not missed anyone participating in the conversation (who might have a name that resembled Le₡n) there is no one present in that conversation whose name is even remotely similar. After a while, repetitive mistakes like that became a little annoying …

Jump to the Past and Present

The author used present tense whenever there was a chapter from Malinali’s point of view, written in the first person. All other chapters were told from the third person, in the past tense. First, it seemed to me that the present tense was only used in flashbacks by Malinali, but when I was halfway in the book, a section about her (written in third person) was in present tense too. That also made me pause and leaf back and forth to check previous chapters.

mexico

In general, I don’t like reading historical novels in the present tense, but that’s just an opinion. We all have our own writing style. The author may have had his reasons for doing this, but the switching back and forth between present and past tense irked me a little, and it took some time getting used to it, but that is just me.

Rich Descriptions of an Amazing Civilization

The vivid descriptions of the native tribes and their cities make the reader envision these magnificent places, for example Texcala, Cholula, and the great city of Tenochtitlan. Colin Falconer really makes these places come to life in his novel. You can see Montezuma and his rich attire, the Mexica lords, the Jaguar and the Eagle Knights, and the fearsome Totonac and Texcalan warriors. The descriptions are rich and detailed.

aztec

The story was good and entertaining, and the author has definitely done his research. It was an enjoyable read, with some gory details, but such were the times.

This was a clash between two cultures, the Spanish who arrived with their Catholic priests, murdering and torturing so-called heretics; and then there were the native tribes who sacrificed people to their gods. Which one was more cruel? The religion that stretched people on the rack and burnt “witches” alive, causing an agonizing, slow death; or the native “heathen” who cut out the heart and provided for a quick demise?

quetzalcoatl

This book was obviously a bestseller in Mexico, where Malinali is still very much alive in debates, discussions, paintings, murals, and so on. Colin Falconer is an internationally bestselling author, but although I liked the story, I wasn’t crazy about it. It was good, but there were a lot of editing errors, and then there was the switching between past and present tense.

Recommended?

If there hadn’t been so many errors, I would have liked this book a lot more. Even though there were characters that stuck with me long after I put my Kindle down (like Benitez, Rain Flower, Malinali, and soldier Gonzalo Norte,) I think that whoever edited this book could have made more of an effort. It’s a shame, because it brought down the quality of a really captivating story.

What do you think lowers the quality of a book? Would you ignore many spelling errors or ommitted words if the story is good? Please let me know in the comments.

If you’d like to give Aztec a read, and you don’t mind many errors in spelling, sentence, or ommitted words, Amazon has a good deal, and it is also available on Kindle Unlimited. I think I am ready to try out another author now.

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Comments

  1. Hello Lila, I’m not familiar with the book but I do love a good read. I used to be fascinated by the Aztecs. I’ve always wanted to learn more about them but haven’t really gotten the time to do so. 

    Partly because I want to study them more as a hobby than as a task. This book ordinarily would have grabbed my attention but after reading your review, not so much. I think errors are a huge “turn off” when it comes to books. What’s the point of a good read if  I keep getting distracted by silly mistakes here and there. 

    Thank you for this review. I’ll certainly be following your works from now.

    1. Hi there!

      Yes, those errors were a turn off for me too. Otherwise, this could have been a really great book. If you’re interested in some history of the Aztecs and the conquest of their empire, I highly recommend Bernal Diaz Del Castillo’s memoirs. Bernal Diaz was a soldier in Cortez’s army, and he wrote a book about his adventures in the Aztec Empire. Although written from a Spanish point of view, it is clear that Diaz admires the Aztec Empire and he writes about them very favourably. His account is a pageturner, full of adventure and history, written by a man who was there.

  2. I did not know about this story of Malinali. But ii seems like a fascinating story and I am interested in knowing more about it. So, apart from the editing mistakes, is the story accurate? Because I would love to learn about the real story.

    I know that authors sometimes take history and mix it with a lot of fiction. If the story in Aztec is not so accurate can you recommend another book on Malinali ?

    Thanks

    1. Hi!

      Yes, the story is accurate. I have studied Mexican history and I also live in Mexico. The author portrays events as they happened. 

  3. Oh that is tough.  The more that I am reading and writing in my adult life, the more I do not like reading grammatical errors.  I am not saying I am good at it lol but I dont like reading them.  But as far as aztecs goes, i love these people and there story.  I also believe that they are very passionate about a vegan diet like I am.  Do you know this to be true?

    1. Hi Eric,

      I also don’t like to find many grammatical errors in books. Probably because – like you – I also write. We all make mistakes, but if they are repeated it gets annoying …

      It is true that Aztecs ate little meat. Their diet included mostly beans, chillies, tomatoes, beans, insects, and they also ate the cholosquintle, the hairless dogs. Because of the Spanish invasion, more meat such as beef, pork, and lamb were introduced. Those animals did not exist in America. Now, Mexican food is loaded with meat, but original Mexica (Aztec) fare was mostly plant-based.

  4. Hi there thanks for this article.i love a good read although am not really familiar with the book but I would love to learn more about the Aztec.it has much editing mistake and error .but apart from all that,I would love to know if the story is accurate.if the story is not accurate can you please recommend another book on Malina?

    1. Hi Martha,

      This book is accurate, the author definitely did his research on Malinali. 

      There is also another great book, written by a soldier who was present during the conquest of Mexico. Bernal Diaz del Castillo was one of the 500 soldiers who went with Hernan Cortez to Mexico and subdued the Aztec Empire. He wrote a book about this adventure, and he adds many details about Aztec culture, people, food, buildings, clothes, and so on. From the way Bernal Diaz described everything, it is clear that he admired the Mexicas (Aztecs). The book is called The Conquest of New Spain and I read it years ago, it is a real pageturner, a fascinating read! 🙂 

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