In the first installment of a series, Davies captures the imagination by following Cuauhtémoc and his airborne adventures through 16th-century Mayan civilization.
Cuauhtémoc (which means descending eagle) is born into the world as the fulfillment of a prophecy. By the time he’s 10, Cuauhtémoc’s good deeds, confident demeanor and logical mind lead him away from his grandfather’s wishes (to be a healer) and toward his own inevitable destiny as a birdman—a flying messenger for the Maya. Through his observation of eagles, Cuauhtémoc knows the ups and down of flying, and after joining up with the nestlings—the trainee school for birdmen—he easily becomes one of their most talented members. Good-hearted Cuauhtémoc goes on to solve many of the village’s problems with simple logic, all the while gaining allies and friends who defend his every move. Eventually, while out on duty, Cuauhtémoc sees unfamiliar ships at sea and decides to investigate—only to find that foreign pirates have invaded his land. Though a well-crafted idea for a fairy tale, the presentation falls short of its potential. The omniscient narrator is too distant and unfocused, going so far as to mention the nonexistence of television in 16th-century Mayan culture. The dryness bleeds into the dialogue of the characters as well: “That order suits me from the ground up, Lieutenant; you would not believe how much that order suits me.” The abundance of poor punctuation leads to long, aimless sentences that ultimately distract readers from the story. Overall, the placement of a dispassionate voice within an exhilarating subject matter causes the narrative to be at conflict with itself, disallowing the reader to enjoy the exciting world of flying soldiers and legendary boys.
An interesting premise stalled by shortcomings in character development and narrative voice.