Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Book Review: Servant of the Underworld by Aliette de Bodard

Pros: Aztec setting and mythology, lots of magic, strong characterization, includes bibliography

Cons: the story was a little slow at times, unusual/unpronounceable names slow reading, mystery seems thin at times

Acatl, high priest of the dead, is called to investigate the disappearance of a priestess. His older, more successful and beloved brother is the main suspect. In attempting to prove his brother's innocence, Acatl must learn more about court politics, the gods and come to terms with his past.

For fantasy readers wanting something different, this well researched (she includes a partial bibliography and notes at the back) look at the Aztec/Mexica empire is refreshing. While the author admits changing some things to fit her plot, it's still a glimpse into a way of life many are unfamiliar with. And her portrayal is more positive than what the Aztecs usually receive.

De Bodard does a great job of consistently giving title with names - so while she included a dramatis personnae list and glossary of terms I never needed them. The names did get difficult to pronounce at times, which slowed reading time a bit.

Acatl's jealousy of his brother's supposedly perfect life and his lack of desire in terms of being high priest made him a very interesting character.  He has flaws, even while he berates the flaws of others.

The mystery does seem thin at times, but every time I suspected an easy resolution to the disappearance, something new came up. And the characters and world are fascinating enough to hold interest when the mystery lags.

In the end, the plot twists, strong characterization and unique setting make for an interesting read.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Thanks Jessica, I'm going to have to check out this book for one of my next reads! I'd like to recommend a wonderful sci-fi book I just finished written by Leonid Korogodski. It's called Pink Noise: A Posthuman Tale and it won 2nd place for Sci-Fi's in 2010. Beautifully written and the ideas are out of this world, highly recommend it.