03 March 2014

Book review: Obsidian and Blood

Obsidian and Blood, by Aliette deBodard

As promised, I am back from Germany and posting a review of this trilogy.

This omnibus collects the three Acatl novels and three short stories.

In the first novel, Servant of the Underworld, Acatl, High Priest for the Dead in Tenochtitlan, is called to investigate a murder. When his brother is framed for said murder, he insists on clearing his name.

In Harbinger of the Storm, the Revered Speaker has died, and during the Council's deliberations about his successor, someone is killing off Council members. Acatl throws himself headlong into the trouble.

The final novel, Master of the House of Darts, takes place following the new Revered Speaker's coronation war. A mysterious illness felled one of the captured sacrifices, and Acatl must figure out how the curse is transmitted--and who cast it.

These are, in a way, cosy mysteries set in the Mexica empire, which most people who went to school in the US know as the Aztecs. The most notable difference between these and a cosy is that there is actual magic, and the gods are real.

Gods do intervene, rather often. As High Priest for the Dead, Acatl can call on Mictlantecuhtli and Mictecacihuatl, Lord and Lady Death, as well as the Wind of Knives, a sort of justice bringer for the underworld. He can also talk to the other gods and goddesses.

Readers who are sensitive to animal death may be put off; there are frequent animal sacrifices to gain access to the gods. (The human sacrifices occur off screen, though Acatl often cuts himself to get blood for his spells.)

I had trouble keeping up with what was happening on occasion, possibly because I'm not used to reading mysteries and keeping track of clues and/or who did what; also, I frequently had long breaks between reading sessions and forgot what had happened.

I got this as an epub from Angry Robot during a sale around Christmas. There are a few formatting issues with it, like words merged together or weirdly spaced, but that is neither here nor there as far as the writing is concerned.

Overall, these books are worth reading. The characters are compelling, and the world is well drawn, based on historical research. If you like mysteries and magic, and can stomach a lot of blood-spilling and sacrifices, you may enjoy these.

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