Second in Harlan’s SF series (Wasteland of Flint, 2003) set in a far future where the Méxica have conquered Anahuac (Earth) and now are establishing a galactic empire.
It is the time of the Sixth Sun. Planet Jagan, with its long history of alien invasions, wars, and conquests, has come under Imperial protection, but its reptilian natives still dream of the time when they were a mighty, starfaring race. Old Itzpalicue, a Méxica agent of The Mirror Which Reveals—she spurs her consciousness with pain and drugs—arrives on the planet to further her conspiracy with the Flower Priesthood who, at her behest, have been inciting Jagan’s rebellious factions and supplying them with out-of-date arms. Itzpalicue’s purpose in instigating a Flower War is threefold: to give Tezozómoc, the Emperor’s foolish, drunken youngest son, a chance to distinguish himself during the struggle; to discredit the military allies of the Imperial Judge, Green Hummingbird; and to test the presence, suspected but unconfirmed, of an unknown, very powerful alien. Meanwhile, impoverished archaeologist Gretchen Anderssen investigates whether Jagan is harboring an ancient, immensely valuable and extremely dangerous First Sun artifact. Anderssen, who has come to understand Green Hummingbird and knows how deadly First Sun artifacts can be, will discover more than she bargained for; and, thanks to the intervention of the shapeshifting Lengian intent on testing the human species, neither will Itzpalicue’s relatively bloodless Flower War proceed as planned.
Overpopulated and uneven, with far too many narrative points of view, but sufficiently distinctive, ingenious, and energetic that fans of the outstanding inaugural volume will plunge right in.