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  • A Dazzling Triumph in an Mesoamerican Fantasy

    My express and gratiude to Jamie at Harpervoyager for allowing me to access an ARC via Netgalley in exchange for a honest review. My thoughts only. The entire continent of Ixachipan became an ever torment mass of fire, fighting and blood. I watched, as an observor, witnessing the events of a fight that would soon engulf everyone. Wars fought for the purpose of religion. Conflicts started because empires must expand. The cost of innocent lives. War is brutal. And a religion that demands sacrifice to our esteemed Singer and the Song is no less than a evil cult from what I have seen of the Singing City and the Pecha. I like how Anna has described a city of perfection in this novel, and you will witness its unravelling in front of you. You will witness fighting in the Sky City, witness ambushes you have never seen before, and blood will run through this novel. And never have I felt so much sadness in one book. The shackles of royalty create a growing dark feeling within the Singer himself. That is the only clue I will give. He is a character that you will despise, but somewhat sympathise. Because the most truly evil people weren’t evil in the first place. Circumstances, events and time presented itself. You may say that the reason the Gods don’t appear anymore in this world, is because of humanity’s free will. Everything is a consequence of human will. If this structure of a story was put in a sci-fi and historical fiction, it would fit very well. That said, I did feel the pacing of the novel could have been a bit faster. I would have had wanted more native style words of swearing. That would have added a little more immersion in my opinion. The Empire of Songs is a perfect example of what happens when a cult is developed around one figure called the Singer, and that Godhood slowly reveals the madness that the people living in the Empire of Songs are witness too. It is not a perfect empire. It is not an honourable empire. Eventually, all the benefits for their slaves will go to waste at some point. The Empire has a fanatical ability to believe that spreading the Song will bring peace. The people of Tokoban and Yalotan want to be left in peace, but their Council is very arrogant. Very arrogant indeed not to realise the impending threat that the Empire of Song is doing. And to the characters of this story, I think they are mature enough to understand that they live in a world that is inherently grim-dark to an extent. Mesoamerican society however is intrepreted from the viewpoint of Monks and not very favourable viewpoints come often. However, there was a Spanish Monk named Bartolomé de las Casas, who arrived in New Spain at the time when the Aztec Empire had ceased to exist. It was he that opposed the colonisers brutal efforts of commiting atrocities over the local natives of Mexica. An entire story can be written on this hero himself. He owned slaves and then seeing the atrocities that Cortes’s administrators were inflicting, he freed them. He was ahead of his time and it brought the wrath of the Church on him. Bartolomé often argued in favour of the Native Peoples that were now under Spanish rule, and during a debate in 1550, Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda, a theologian, philsopher, and an active opponent of anti-slavery, argued that the Indians were less than human and they needed the full might of Spanish civilization to master and subjugate them. In this book, you will see a lot of this when it comes to the Empire of Songs believing that they are superior. Back to this tale however, Las Casas argued that the Indians were free, fully human, and that subjugation was not only unjustifiable, it was immoral and against the word of God. Las Casas would go on to fight 50 years to stop the atrocities inflicted on indigenous peoples, trying to persuade the Spanish Court to adopt the human policy of colonization, and he opposed those priests who sought to destroy the indigenous people’s native books. I have no doubt there were many other prudent administrators, soliders, priests that supported Las Casas in this endeavour and hence we still have the preservation of Aztec and Mayan manuscripts and Anna did a lot of research when it comes to the worldbuilding of this culture. We don’t have enough viewpoints from the Mesoamericans because the Spanish did order their holy texts to be burned. Temples raised to the ground. The Romans destroyed Carthage and razed it to the ground. Often, we get a viewpoint that has to be intrepreted from the winner’s point of view. The loser’s viewpoint is harder to study. Does no one remember the valiant efforts of the Gauls against Julius Ceasar? Who is celebrated more, tell me. Julius Ceasar or his Gallic enemies? Julius Ceasar of course. The reason I bring this to attention is the fact that Anna has done a very good attempt at creating an authenthic immersive world that is very free of this bias. The themes of colonalism is rife and the theme of subjugation is ever present in this novel.

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