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by Tanya Landman

Age Range: 12 & up

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-7636-4219-8
Publisher: Candlewick

Readers meander through Itacate’s childhood in Tenochtitlán observing omens that foretell the arrival of the Spaniards. An apprentice to her father, she is taken to Montezuma to prepare gold figurines for the strangers. She’s smitten with golden-haired Francisco, and the narrative shifts to romance and war, ending as the two declare they will live “Like beasts. Yes. With no priests. No gods.… [T]ogether we shall make a new world.” All characters are utterly flat, including Itacate, who speaks as if she’s a tour guide to her life. Landman gratuitously capitalizes on images of savagery while applying a veneer of sympathy to her questionable depiction of the culture. A “historical note” explains that the author has changed events “in order to make the plot work,” has “been fairly free” in depicting Montezuma and Cortés (including conflating Cortés with his deputy) and that while this “isn’t necessarily a historically precise book, it evokes how it might have felt to live at that time.” However, the plot hardly compels, and there is nothing evocative of reality, making this a failure of fiction as well as of history. (bibliography) (Historical fiction. 12 & up)