by Gary Jennings
Reviewed by Coral
Following in the same vein as The King, A Song For Arbonne and Rules of Ascension, Aztec is a book that I read a while ago, meaning that I'm a little sketchy on all the details and plot points. But, like the others, it is a book that I am capable of ranting about, years after the fact. Which is what I'm about to do.
Huh, seems to be a theme of the reviews I'm writting today but, like Eagle in the Snow, the main problem with this book is an unlikable main character that I just couldn't relate to at all. In this book we have Mixtil, an old Aztec man, telling his life story to Spanish priests who have been ordered to preserve some of the Aztec history by their king back in Spain.
Strike one again Mixtil is the incestuous relationship he shares with his sister, because ew. There isn't much in the the world of sex and sexuality that squicks me out. I don't understand the hate or disgust people feel towards those who are gay and bisexual because, to me, people should be allowed to express love and/or lust with whomever they want - as long as everyone is consensual and of age, of course. I also don't see the big deal about poly-amorous or polygamous couples, again as long as everyone consents to the situation and it's not some brainwashing, creepy cult, then why shouldn't people be free to love whomever they want to love? But, of the very few things that squick the hell out of me, incest is one of them. How people can feel a romantic or physical attraction to people they're related to ... and I'm about to be sick, so let's move on, shall we?
The rest of the strikes against Mixtil pretty much stem from this first one. When he learns his sister is to be married off to an important man, he realizes she'll most likely be killed for no longer being a virgin. In desperation he turns to his two best friends, trying to persuade one of them to marry his sister to save her life, only to find out that they are in love with each other and cannot lie to themselves and the world by claiming to love someone they don't. Mixtil has to eventually accept the worst when his sister leaves for her husband and is never heard from again.
I'm not exactly sure of the "why's" and the "how's" anymore, but Mixtil leaves his home for a book-long journey through the Aztec empire. At some point he ends up employed by a rich eccentric woman, who uses him to seek out men and women for her to sleep with. The thing is, in order to keep this secret, she kills her lovers. But, not wanting to lose the memory of them, she asks Mixtil to hire sculptors, so the bodies of her lovers can be encased in a sculpture that looks exactly like them, forever preserving what it was about them that attracted her. So, Mixtil goes to his two best friends and offers them the job, neglecting to mention all of the important bits about the job. When the woman's murderous spree is discovered, everyone involved in the situation is executed, except for Mixtil - because he, apparently, was only following orders - and one of his friends - whose lover died, claiming he was the only sculptor involved in the plot. The surviving lover then makes it his life mission to destroy Mixtil's happiness the way Mixtil destroyed his.
I know I'm supposed to feel bad that first Mixtil's lover and the child they would have had are killed by his surviving friend, but at this point I kind of hated Mixtil for dragging his friends into the rich woman's plot. They're supposed to be your friends, how can you keep asking them to put their lives in danger because of you? And, of course Mixtil goes to get revenge on his friend, only seeing himself as the wronged party, never once seeing what it was that he cost his friend. That's Mixtil's main problem. He's so damn self-centered. It's all about him, and damn the rest of the world.
He doesn't kill his friend, though, so the cycle continues as Mixtil embarks on a new relationship with one of his lover's surviving daughters. Which is sort of disturbing, as Mixtil was the father of their little brother! By the end of the book he's carried on relationships with the mother and both daughters!
Honestly, it's been years since I read this book, but the Mixtil character still bugs. It was so unbelievable, and so unfair, that he wasn't executed for the dozens of lovers he sought out for the rich woman, but that other more innocent people paid the price for the crimes he help set up. Grr.