Quetzalpetlatl is the king's only legitimate daughter - his queen having become barren giving birth to their daughter. In need of a male heir, the king and his brother decide to marry their children, Quetzalpetlatl and Black Otter, while they are still children. But the feathered serpent god Quetzalcoatl visits the queen in a dream and tells her that, if she'll swallow a jade pebble, she'll conceive the long awaited heir.
This is how the book starts, and to be honest, it lulled me into a false sense of security, it seemed so much like standard YA that I even forgot it was most definitely not YA. This is soon apparent with all the violence, incest, rape and gore that follows.
I had to struggle with myself, as I imagine many readers will, when it comes to the incest in this book. It wasn't a taboo in that particular culture, but it's a very ingrained one in mine, so even when I wanted to root for some things I couldn't help but feel repulsed by them, at the same time. This is a failure of mine as a reader and as a person, I should be more open minded, but I'd be lying if I didn't mention how that may have affected my reading of this book - logically I can't even think of a way for the author to write about these characters without including incest and that, I can tell for sure, would make me lower the rating because it would be a cowardly cop-out.
As it is, I just want to make it clear, it was not an easy book for me.
I also feel like my lack of knowledge on this particular culture will hinder me when it comes to properly praising it in this review. But make not mistake, the book is amazing - I couldn't even put it down, I had to read it all in one go.
Weirdly, it reminded me a lot of Marion Zimmer Bradley's work - not because of the incest bits! - there's that overarching religious battle occurring throughout the whole plot, and while it's a completely different mythology from the one in Mists of Avalon (or maybe not, I'm certainly no expert on comparative mythology, though that's an intriguing idea which I shall have to research later), the feelings I experienced, as a reader, were much the same for both works. There's the whole religious conflict seeming to take more importance among mortals than the Gods, there are all the political intrigues and plots, the forbidden (and not so forbidden but it feels like they should be forbidden) romances, there's loss and tragedy, the character's lives being destroyed and rebuilt again - the constant hope.
I guess, given who the characters are, it would be a fairer comparison to the works of Christian Jacq, who also weaves historical fact with myth, and those two with storytelling.
But T.L. Morganfield, is a much more skilled storyteller than Jacq, so we're back to Zimmer Bradley...
Comparisons aside, Morganfield is an author that managed to deeply impress me (no small feat, I'm notoriously stingy with my ratings), she managed to introduce me to a whole new culture (as I said, I'm very uninformed about the subject matter) without a single instance of info-dump, and yet I never felt lost in the story. And the plot is immensely addictive, as I mentioned above, I read this in one sitting.
I think the book may suffer, unjustly, because of the themes it approaches, though they were a vital inclusion when discussing the time period. But I hope it will manage to rise above that, because this showed some extremely skilful writing, worthy of being noticed and praised.
That being said, I can't wait for the sequel!
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The Bone Flower Throne