Monday, September 26, 2011

Five Dances with Death: Dance One

Austin Briggs
Helvetic House (2011)
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views



The first book in this series begins in 1516, during the time of the Aztec Empire and the Spanish conquest.  Lord Angry Wasp, a prince of Tlaxcala is playing a deadly ballgame against his nemesis Talon. Talon had captured Wasp's precious daughter Dew. Desperate to find her, Wasp agreed to the ballgame, hoping to reclaim her.  When this does not happen, Wasp refuses to give up on his search for her.  Much of his future decisions and actions are based upon this goal.

Wasp has two wives, one is his beloved Otomi witch Broken Plume, who is also Dew's mother. The other is a Toltec princess named Rainbow Obsidian. Her role as his wife is to give status based upon her Toltec heritage.  Broken Plume has taught Wasp to use sorcery to make a spiritual double of himself, so that he can travel to other places, including the underworld and also enter into other's bodies and see things through their eyes.

Desperate for the return of his captured daughter Dew, Wasp takes journeys to gather information about her whereabouts.  He also obtains information about his enemies, and the newly arriving outlanders who come from the sea. During one of these outer body quests, Wasp is somehow captured by the Moonwalk people and forced to play games truly based upon life and death. Dying is considered an honor and Lord Wasp holds a strong belief that his death will not be the end, but rather a continuation of his journey.  However honorable this may be, he is still not ready to die yet.

The people of Tlaxcala are facing difficult times because blockades by the Mexica are preventing food and supplies from being brought to them.  As Wasp endures great physical and spiritual battles, he does not always act honorably with his decisions. His easiness to anger also gets him into some sticky situations.  As he discovers more about what is happening in the lands around him, and the incoming outlanders, he has to figure out who he can best ally his people to and then convince his people about what is best. This is not an easy task.

"Five Dances with Death: Dance One" tells an amazing story of a leader who faces incredible trials while trying to keep his people safe from both the Aztecs and the incoming Spanish Conquistadors.  Using sorcery, strength and his wits, the hero has a daunting task set in front of him, especially since major decisions can affect whether or not he sees his enslaved daughter again. Austin Briggs does an excellent job of bringing this period to life and as I read I found myself totally captured by the story. Readers will truly appreciate both the story and the amount of historical research that went into bringing this novel to existence.