Caught up on my reading with a book I grabbed the instant I knew it existed, Age of Aztec by James Lovegrove. I’ve read all three of the other Age books he’s written. They’re stand alone books about different pantheons being active in the world, Egyptian, Greek, Viking and now the Aztec. Let’s drop in on the back of the book, shall we?
The date is 4 Jaguar 1 Monkey 1 House – November 25th 2012 by the old reckoning – and the Aztec Empire rules the world in the name of Quetzalcoatl – the Feathered Serpent – and his brother gods.
The Aztecs’ reign is one of cruel and ruthless oppression, encompassing regular human sacrifice. In the jungle-infested city of London, one man defies them: the masked vigilante known as the Conquistador.
Then the Conquistador is recruited to spearhead an uprising, and discovers a terrible truth about the Aztec and their gods. The clock is ticking. Apocalypse looms, unless the Conquistador can help assassinate the mysterious, immortal Aztec emperor, the Great Speaker. But his mission is complicated by Mal Vaughn, a police detective who is on his trail, determined to bring him to justice
So the vigilante/terrorist vs cop is a different angle than the previous Age books. There was a lot more military to the other three, Ra was about an active duty SAS trooper, Odin was about an ex-infantryman and Zeus was about a cop picked for a mercenary unit. The two different angles works, even though I don’t think it is something done that often anymore. They’re separate for acts one and two and come together in act three. I’ve heard some people don’t like that kind of thing, but it doesn’t bother me since it was typical of the 80s and 90s fantasy books I used to ‘acquire’ from my parents when I was a kid.
As always with the Age books Lovegrove writes, the world building is detailed and intense. The Aztecs rule the whole of the world under the immortal jackboot of Mocatzuma II and their brutal as hell in doing it. There’s a lot of human sacrifice going on in downtown London right in chapter one. I actually remember feeling rather uncomfortable reading it, not because of gory details or any such thing as that, but it’s one of those things I don’t really like reading. An intense focus on human sacrifice is on a short list of things that will put me off a book, but it’s not too bad here. As much as it was uncomfortable, it was beneficiary to the world building.
That sacrifice shenanigans is what most people know about the Aztec. I’m not all that familiar with the Aztec pantheon and very little of their mythos unlike the other three Age books which focus on what are probably the three most well known pantheons. The book does a good job of introducing the readers while keeping the explanation integrated with the story. There’s no break for exposition. Made me feel like I was a’ learning something. “Oneness in duality” is apparently a big concept in their mythology and it moves about in the story accordingly.
The characters here are fun. The Conquistador, I’m not going to name him proper because his identity is a secret for a little while, is a cheeky way too full of himself. Inspector Mal Vaughn though is the best one here. She’s a hard ass cop (Jaguar Warrior in the book’s parlance) with a lot of guilt on her hands but damnit, she’s gonna get the job done. This is compounded by the fact that in the Aztec world, failure is met with execution.
There’s been a lot of talk around the genre websites about women characters written by men, the biggest being this piece from io9. While a lot of that talk is something I’m going to save for a proper post here, Age of Aztec is something you can point to with well written women characters written by men. Mal, which is short for something in the Aztec language I just spent ten minutes looking for by couldn’t find readily since its used only two or three times in 500 pages, is a character I found very strong and interesting. The book never plays up the “girl working with a bunch of guys” thing, being a cop is just her job and something she likes. I find it very odd though that the back of the book blerb doesn’t actually tell you Mal is a woman. Espicially being a book that starts out in England, Mal is assumed to be short for Malcolm. So there was a “oooh she’s a woman” moment in her first chapter. She’s on the cover in battle gear, but the giant priest head is more prominent so I didn’t put the two together at first.
A little more about the plot, Mal and the Conquistador cross paths earlier than I thought they would and the Conquistador falls in with a small Mayan rebel cell. The action jumps over to the Mexican jungles and the Aztec deities roll on in. The pacing picks up a lot in the jungles and the deities themselves make up an interesting cast of characters. One of the minor downsides ofAztec is that we don’t get enough of the deities. They’re interesting as hell and I wish there was more to their part of the story, especially since some of the ones that take the stage weren’t included in the Aztec Mythology Primer back in chapter three or four.
The ending… eh… I don’t want to ruin it for anyone but I had mixed feelings on it. It ended the only way it could which is satisfying that it didn’t force anything. Oneness in duality thing going on again even in the end.Age of Odin is still my favorite but I would still highly recommend this book based off the lesser known mythology, the excellent world building and Mal Vaughn.