Overlong and gratuitously sexy and grotesque—but also highly entertaining—finish to Jennings’s trilogy of valiant Aztec Indian heroes who use their wits, cultural heritage, and sexual wiles to turn the tables on the conquering Spaniards.
A century after Aztec Autumn (1997), Cristobal the Bastard, a mestizo (Aztec Indian mother, unknown Spanish father) is resting between bouts of hideous (and graphically described) torture by the infamously perverse clerics of the Spanish Inquisitors, who provide him with pen, ink, and paper to write his confession. Unbeknownst to the clerics, Cristobal is also keeping a secret autobiography with disappearing ink (made of milk passed to him by a lactating woman in the cell next door). This tale, then, written in milk-ink, begins with Cristobal’s uncertain birth to a beautiful Indian woman enslaved as a mistress to a disgusting Spanish landowner, his rejection by both the Spaniards and the Indians for being of mixed blood, his life as a thief and beggar, his twin apprenticeships, first to the kindly, defrocked priest Antonio, who teaches him to read and write, then to an enigmatic Aztec healer, part charlatan, part mystic, who leads him on a visionary return to his Indian roots. The evil Spanish grandee Don Ramon wants to kill him for reasons that aren’t difficult to guess. After Don Ramon in fact does murder Father Antonio, Cristobal embarks on a series of improbably picaresque adventures in Mexico and then across the Atlantic to Spain itself, aided by the flamboyant actor Mateo and the fiery feminist Spanish aristocrat Elena, who falls for him but is betrothed to marry the loathsome Luis, Don Ramon’s loathsome son. Just as the last line of invisible ink dries, who should appear at Cristobal’s prison door but . . . ?
Windy but charming plotboiler overflowing with interesting details about Spanish colonialism, heady Indian mysticism, and numerous puns and winking references to the picaresque novels of the period.