Monday, March 8, 2010

Children of the Sun by Elizabeth Manson Bahr


In Children of the Sun by Elizabeth Manson Bahr, the Emperor Montezuma of the Aztec nation receives his messengers from the eastern coast, bearing news of strange, pale-skinned men from "houses that traveled on water.” His greatest fear is that their leader, the ruthless Hernan Cortes, might be the Plumed Serpent god Quetzalcoatl, whose return has been foretold in Aztec prophecy. Presented with two options, destroying the strangers or worshipping them unconditionally, his choice will influence the fate of an empire.

Montezuma sends his trusted advisors to investigate the arrivals. Though they suspect the Spanish are no more than mortal men, the emperor is unsure. It is the year One Reed when the god’s return had been expected. With their strange ships, guns that spew smoke and death, and the aid of the Mexica girl who translates for them, the Spanish leader convinces Montezuma that he should be feared as the god Quetzalcoatl. By the time Montezuma realizes the truth, it is already too late for his people, especially his young daughter Jewel, who finds herself at the mercy of Hernan Cortes.

In the midst of luxury and splendor, death and decay have embroiled the Aztec Empire in Children of the Sun and permeates the scenes. At the start of the novel, the corpses of enemy warriors, sacrificed to secure the favor of the gods, litter the temple grounds. Nearing its conclusion, their have been so many deaths that it seems impossible for the Aztec people to rise again. The author offers rich details throughout the work, which will appeal to readers who are fascinated by the Aztec Empire. Although many of the scenes are narrated from the perspective of Montezuma and his advisors, his daughter Jewel stands out and provides a thread of continuity for the reader. As she inherits the mantle of his failed legacy, it would have been interesting to view all the events that unfolded from just her perspective.