Friday, August 12, 2011

The Dark Star of Itza: The Story of a Pagan Princess, by Alida Malkus

Alas, any jacket that this book once may have possessed has been lost to the sands of time. I'm sure it was fantastic, as the internal illustrations are marvelous and detailed, resembling the art and written language of the Mayan people.

The book primarily centers around Nicté, the daughter of the high priest of Chichen Itza. Nicté has also been trained to interpret signs and stars, and has visions of the future of her people. She and her father have both predicted that the king, Chac Zib Chac, should forgo an annual festival and remain in the city, lest he be lured to his doom. However, their claims are casually disregarded.

In the meantime, Nicté's emotions are torn between a young warrior who has been her friend since childhood, and a Toltec foreigner who has come into the city to learn about the Mayan methods of architecture. He promises her vast wealth and recognition in his home country, and he is well aware that the city will soon be laid siege to. She initially rebuffs the advances of the foreigner, Itzam Pesh, but in the chaos of the attack she, her father, and the king's wife are rescued from death by him.

The Toltecs eventually move in and restore the city with minimal loss of life. Although the people suffer in the heat, ravaged parts of the city are quickly rebuilt. The Toltec king relies on Nicté's advice and guidance. And then comes the surprise ending ;)

Really, I wanted to like this book much more than I did. It has a lot of really fun and exciting elements, and the author really knew his/her (it's unclear to me) stuff. The author really took the time to dig into primary sources to know the culture in question, and has visited the ruins as well. But I found it hard to follow- the names were foreign to me so I had trouble saying them in my head as I read, and the dialogue is written in the stilted way that authors often use to show that the speakers are not using English. Others online seem to have found the book exciting and engaging, though, so if you're able to get your hands on a copy, I'd love to know how you found it.

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