Codex Lochianus

A gallimaufry of musings on history, gaming, and speculative fiction

Obsidian and Blood

I’m not going to beat around the bush: Aliette de Bodard’s “Obsidian and Blood” series is awesome, and you should read it.

There are currently two books in the series: Servant of the Underworld and Harbinger of the Storm. Set in the Aztec Empire several decades before the Spanish conquest, the books are told from the perspective of Acatl, the High Priest of the Dead. In Servant, Acatl’s estranged brother is implicated in the disappearance of a priestess, and Acatl must prove his innocence. In Harbinger, the political maneuvering that follows the death of the Revered Speaker (i.e. the Emperor) almost brings about the end of the world.

For me, the best part of the series is its historical accuracy. De Bodard clearly did her research, and it shows. At the same time, she’s skillful enough to make the world of the Aztecs come alive without resorting to a bunch of awkward info-dumps. There’s a fine line between “well-researched” and “pedantic,” and de Bodard walks it with grace.

Since this is fiction, a certain number of historical liberties were inevitable. To her credit, de Bodard discusses them in the Afterword instead of just sweeping them under the rug. I particularly liked how she dealt with the issue of names. Most of her characters are upper-class Aztecs, and upper-class Aztecs tended to have names that would strike a modern reader as terribly unwieldy. Instead of just making stuff up, de Bodard uses the shorter names borne by less-exalted Aztecs. For deities, she usually alternates between the Aztec name and its  English translation. All and all, she does an excellent job of finding the middle ground between accuracy and accessibility.

The third book in the series, Master of the House of Darts, will be released in October. I’m sure it’s going to be awesome. I’ll definitely be adding it to my Kindle the moment it becomes available.

De Bodard also has a nifty blog that’s worth a gander. In addition to fascinating reflections on the writing process, she also posts awesome-looking recipes. Someday, when I actually have a real kitchen, I might actually try them out.