Five Dances With Death: Dance One (Austin Briggs)
If this book had been my introduction to historical fiction (instead of Johnny Tremain) I might have tried to follow in Austin Briggs' footsteps (instead of Asimov's!) Five Dances With Death: Dance One is a fascinating foray into Nahuatl culture (native Mesoamericans) that captures the ritualistic, spiritual and all-pervasive violence of this distant and (to me) mysterious setting.
I can honestly say that from the start, Dance One grabbed me in a way that few books can, filling my mind with Briggs' exquisite details, the lavish way he paints each elegant element of not only “One World” but also the spirit world that binds and effects everyone who treads into or through Nahua lands. At the core of its fast-paced and exciting narrative, Dance One carries a beautiful expression and exploration of an almost unifying spiritual “theory” which sheds light on and captures the mind within a world of omens, spiritual doubles and persistent, hungry gods who tempt mortals and swallow souls in an endless game of evolution and creation. There is a mysticism that clings to everything (even the names) in Briggs' work that is rich and powerful, one that brings to mind the talent of such great authors as Storm Constantine and Neil Gaiman without losing focus on the story, the setting, or the voracious, visceral, animal heart that makes this book so gripping and so intriguing.
Beginning as a downtrodden hero story introduced by a comprehensive collection of opening notes that translate and explain various terms, names and places mentioned within the story, Dance One starts with action and finishes with action as the main character (Wasp) struggles to get his enslaved daughter back first from the cocky villain (Talon) and later from the clutches of another who is not above using her as a bargaining chip against Wasp and his nation. The invasion of the conquistadors that occurs in the midst of Dance One swells as the story does to become not just as a physical event, but one that has spiritual concequences as well. In the end, the whole thing rolls and swirls into a stirring and profound conclusion that highlights a struggle of ideals-- should Wasp risk the loss of the gods and spirituality of his nation to ally with the untrustworthy “outlanders” (conquistadors) against his sworn enemies, the Mexica (as others have done) or should he instead face the unknown and stand tall, apart from all those who would cast aside their gods or trample the lives of others? To say that Dance One is an incredible work is not to do it full justice. Five Dances with Death: Dance One is a masterpiece, and I can't wait to read the next book in the series.
Do yourself a favor and pick it up over at Amazon today! http://amzn.to/reM8UZ
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