Author: T. L. Morganfield
Series: The Bone Flower Throne Trilogy #1
Rating: 2 stars
Princess Quetzalpetlatl knows that being part of the royal family of Culhuacan and honouring their god The Feathered Serpent requires sacrifice. At only seven years old she is made to marry her cousin Black Otter, who will become the next King as Quetzalpetlatl’s mother can no longer have children. It could be worse – Black Otter is a good friend, and soon she will live with the priests to learn how better to serve The Feathered Serpent, who she already loves fiercely. But her calm and content childhood is destroyed when her uncle Ihuitimal, Black Otter’s father, reveals that he is a worshiper of a the blood thirsty god known as The Smoking Mirror, sacrificing Quetzalpetlatl’s father and claiming his throne. Though Quetzalpetlatl and her mother escape to their neighbouring allies, the Queen dies in childbirth, leaving Quetzalpetlatl and her little brother, who is believed to be the son of The Feathered Serpent, orphaned.
Raised by their mother’s friend and High Priestess, Nimilitzli, Quetzalpetlatl learns she can communicate with The Feathered Serpent and that not only must her brother Topiltzin must reclaim his throne in the god’s name, but together they must put an end to the practice of human sacrifice. Dedicating her life to the god’s will, Quetzalpetlatl struggles with political turmoil, corruption within the priesthood, and her own growing feelings for Topiltzin. Will her love and desire outweigh her vows of sacrifice?
What first attracted me to The Bone Flower Throne was the fact that it was a fantasy set in tenth century Mexico, mixing politics, gods, and a woman’s quest to avenge her family. It sounded like a great book, especially as I’ve never read an Aztec based fantasy before. In a world where fantasy based on Greek mythology are a dime a dozen, this sounded like a refreshing change. Sadly, I was ultimately disappointed and bored by this book. It suffers heavily from the ‘great idea, poor execution’ problem. The little bit we are shown of Aztec life and customs are quiet interesting, especially the forms of worship, such as the priestess’ piercing their tongues with thorns to offer up their blood. However, the fantasy elements of this novel are limited to the few brief times Quetzalpetlatl contacts her god. The rest of the book is focused on the politics and Quetzalpetlatl’s life. The Bone Flower Throne is meant to be a trilogy, which I was aware of from the beginning, so I was surprised that it covers a lot of her life, starting from her childhood at the age of seven (in a fairly unconvincing first person narration) continuing into her late twenties. Despite spanning so many years not much happens in terms of plot, and the time skips (from between two and ten years) are a little off putting. I gather that these skips are meant to show that not much action took place in those years, but there wasn’t particularly much action in the rest of the book. It also didn’t feel authentically Aztec, with characters using fairly modern language like telling each other to ‘shut up’.
For a woman devout on her god, set on becoming a High Priestess, Quetzalpetlatl spends a little too much time worrying about how she can’t have sex and has to live with her desire. She also seems too willing to throw away her virginity, that she vowed to keep as a sacrifice to her god, much too quickly. This issue seems to come up again and again because all the men in this story are unable to keep their hands off her. This attraction seems unjustified, as Quetzalpetlatl is nothing special, and even boring at times. The romantic interest with her brother is also a bit disturbing, though isn’t odd in the context of this novel, where family members are often wed to each other to preserve the royal blood line. At one point Quetzalpetlatl makes a comment about a women not being able to be anything more than a mother or a priestess and how she needs to change that, but nothing ever comes of it. The worst part of the book though? It was pretty boring, with little action and repetitions about Quetzalpetlatl’s lust and her inability to do anything about it (though not through lack of trying).
Sadly this is another book with ideas that could have been great, but just didn’t live up to it’s potential.