Author: Austin Briggs
Genre: Fantasy / Historical Fiction / Aztecs
Length: 131 double pages
Five Dances With Death: Dance One charted the highs and lows of a
Nahuatl man, warrior and leader of the Tlaxcala people, Angry Wasp, as
he searches for his missing daughter, Dew, during a time where the
Monetzuma War rages and a Spanish invasion lead by their dreaded leader,
Hernán Cortés, draws near.
I applaud author Austin Briggs’ ability to pack much
thought-provoking research and many insights into this book which makes
the mysteries of the Aztecs, their beliefs and rituals, stand out from
many other eras commonly used in historical fiction. His use of his lead
character’s smoke-induced out of body experiences also adds an
interesting, fantasy, shamanistic-like slant, where Wasp has been taught
by his wife, Broken Plume, to step inside another person’s mind (the
art of instant travel) and appear before them, many miles away, showing
the author’s colossal imagination can fly nearly as high as Wasp.
Although Wasp never gave up his search for his long lost daughter,
he did seem to swash-buckle his way through the story with little
mention of his daughter for a fair while. In addition, the actions of
the lead characters must have the most significance as they are
responsible to move the story forward and make it interesting, yet at
the beginning I didn’t quite get this feeling from Wasp. Maybe it was
because his language was stilted at times, or it was just a clever trick
by the author to keep Wasp’s language and character within his time
period, but he took time to grown on me. Although, I did find his
adventures full of facts and amazing chunks of information, which kept
me in this historical fantasy setting and piqued my interest enough to
finish it, I felt the story lacked that gripping `how-does-it-end?’
Excellent moments include the action fighting scenes, and the
author’s meticulous attention to historical detail, from which I learned
a lot of interesting facts about Meso-American society and culture.
Wasp’s habit of jumping out of his body (as his double) straight into
the next big fight without contemplating the consequences meant that
through his transcendental experiences he cleverly met up with some
unlikely and seemingly random but useful characters along the way and a
surprise ending, no less.
I also appreciate the author’s choice of not going for the real
`tongue-twisting’ Aztec names like Citlalpopocatzin and Quiahuixtlan,
which can be so long and hard to read, they distract the reader from the
story. In addition there is a quick pronunciation guide, explanations
of ‘Places and Tribes’ to familiarise readers with the real places and
people of Nahuatl, old Mexico, during Aztec times for those historians
among you. A thoughtful gesture if ever I’ve seen one.
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