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The Conquistadors take a licking but keep on ticking.

Of course, that’s thanks to the intervention of the female slave Malinali, whose father prophesied the eventual downfall of the mighty lord of the Mexican people (Motecuhzoma’s personal representatives slaughtered the old man, and her jealous mother immediately sold Malinali into slavery). Her father always told Malinali that her destiny was disaster, that she is the drum who beats the sunset for Motecuhzoma, and that her future is with the gods—in particular with Feathered Serpent, who is expected to return any day now. Happily, Cortes more or less matches Feathered Serpent’s description, and Malinali is eager to interpret for the being she reveres as a god, though the hairy barbarians with him give her pause. Just for the hell of it, she puts a spin of her own on the words of both sides as she plots her revenge. The handsome Spaniard has a feeling she’s up to something, but her fathomless black eyes aren’t giving away any secrets. Cortes, no fool, assigns her and her girlfriends to deserving officers for some sensual R&R while he figures out what to do next. Chiefs and priests throw themselves at his feet, offering priceless gifts to appease the returned immortals, though some of the sneakier tribespeople observe that the supposed gods defecate in the woods just like mortal men. Cortes cares not a fig for the fine-feathered capes or bolts of cotton cloth, but the gold figurines get him excited indeed. Off to Tenochtitlan he goes to investigate the possibilities of plunder and terrorize the natives, and Malinali comes along to interpret some more and explain colorful local customs like tearing out people’s hearts and eating maggots. The sanctimonious Conquistadors are properly appalled and promptly run amok in various battles, eventually claiming the benighted land for Charles V and Christianity.

Sexy Indian maidens, brooding Spaniards—more History Lite from the author of When We Were Gods (not reviewed).

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 2002
ISBN: 0-609-61029-5
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Crown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 2002