Aztec Dawn: A Tale of Sacrificial Murder, from Manhattan to Mexico
Kerri Louise Thomas
PublishMe Shop (2009)
Reviewed by Olivera Baumgartner-Jackson for Reader Views (7/09)
“Aztec Dawn” by Kerri Louise Thomas is a haunting, slightly disturbing and decidedly colorful book. Moving back and forth between the present-day’s Mexico (and Manhattan) and Mexico of the distant 1523, Ms. Thomas explores the history and beliefs of Aztecs, most notably their belief that there can be no rebirth without death.
John O’Reilly is a mentally unstable young man, who has suffered greatly due to his violent and abusive father. While vacationing in Mexico, he encounters the rituals and beliefs of the ancient Aztecs. Something in his already very fragile mind snaps and he starts to believe that the only way he’ll ever be free of his violent father would be to sacrifice him in the old ritual of ancient sacrifice. While in Mexico, he runs into Juan, who is a descendant of Aztecs, and a believer in the old ways. Juan helps John orchestrate the sacrifice and John finally feels free. He decides to follow his new friend to his home in the mountains and he immerses himself in the daily life of the oppressed native people. Soon he encounters a group of revolutionaries, the Zapatistas, which Juan is closely linked to. Emboldened by the ritualistic sacrifice of John’s father, the group starts to practice the old ways again and soon people start to disappear. But nothing seems to really help and the oppression of the locals continues. Would the ultimate sacrifice change this?
I found the present-day story vaguely disturbing and oftentimes suffering from “holes” in the narrative as well as rather stilted dialogue. How did John make a living, and how was he able to afford a vacation in Mexico? How did he get out of the mental institution his father placed him in? What happened to his girlfriend? How come nobody came looking for his father? The characters were not particularly likeable, not even the ones that were supposed to be nice, such as Salma and Conchita. They all appeared to be somewhat flat and lifeless, and even their struggles did not move me much. On the other hand, I greatly enjoyed the story of the past. Ms. Thomas managed to bring those olden days to life in all their glory and gore. Her descriptions of the everyday life and pursuits of different classes of people in the Aztec kingdom were vivid and interesting, filled with charming detail and interesting tidbits. While I am not a historian and cannot judge the accuracy of the descriptions pertaining the Spanish invasion and conquest, I can certainly say that they were presented in a believable and gripping way.
Overall I found “Aztec Dawn” by Kerri Louise Thomas an interesting book. I am sure that it will find a wide circle of readers among those who enjoy the darker side of human mind as well as those who like to read books about ancient history and culture.