bookrev: Aztec Rage by Gary Jennings

3 stars: Great history, good story, uneven writing

Aztec Rage is the fourth in a series of Aztec Novels by Gary Jennings, including co-authors using Mr. Jennings’ outlines after his untimely death.

The history depicted in Aztec Rage is fantastic. From the descriptions of discoveries and meaning of ancient Mayan, Aztec and Olmec ruins, to the Spanish/French guerilla warfare, to the initiation of the Mexican revolution by Father Hidalgo in 1810, the book dances from novel to non-fiction history work. The depiction of the historical events in all of these arenas were by far my favorate part of the novel. (Note: personal prejudice in this area, as my own first novel includes Mayan culture as well and is an area of personal interest).

The story, revolving around the fictional character of Don Juan de Zavala, is intertwined with these fictional events. His life, changing from caballero of the ruling class until he is fighting with the Mexican revolutionaries, takes him to vantage points enabling him to participate and view history. While I did not find Juan a particularly sympathetic character, there were several other characters in the book (some fictional and some historical) that were well described and well presented, some that I will remember.

The life of the different peoples (indios, crillos, etc.) is also imaginatively portrayed.

My only complaint was that this was obviously a collaborative work, and the writing style and quality bounces. The initial chapters of the book were a struggle for me to complete; but once the story moved to Spain, the pace and caliber of the writing picked up dramatically, and the story drew me in more. Writing from a deceased authors outline and notes I would imagine is quite difficult, so I applaud the co-authors in this.

I look forward to reading the other books in this series.

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