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Obsidian and Blood (Angry Robot) [Paperback]

Aliette de Bodard
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

5 July 2012 Angry Robot
A massive fantasy omnibus containing all three novels in the Obsidian and Blood series: SERVANT OF THE UNDERWORLD Year One-Knife, Tenochtitlan the capital of the Aztecs. The end of the world is kept at bay only by the magic of human sacrifice. A priestess disappears from an empty room drenched in blood. Acatl, high priest, must find her, or break the boundaries between the worlds of the living and the dead. HARBINGER OF THE STORM The year is Two House and the Mexica Empire teeters on the brink of destruction, lying vulnerable to the flesh-eating star-demons and to the return of their creator, a malevolent goddess only held in check by the Protector God s power. The council is convening to choose a new emperor, but when a councilman is found dead, only Acatl, High Priest of the Dead, can solve the mystery. MASTER OF THE HOUSE OF DARTS The year is Three Rabbit, and the storm is coming... The coronation war for the new Emperor has just ended in a failure, the armies retreating with a mere forty prisoners of war not near enough sacrifices to ensure the favor of the gods. When one of those prisoners of war dies of a magical illness, ACATL, High Priest for the Dead, is summoned to investigate.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 880 pages
  • Publisher: Angry Robot Books (5 July 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 085766235X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0857662354
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 13 x 5.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 817,958 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Aliette de Bodard is a half-French, half-Vietnamese computer and history geek who lives in Paris. In her spare time, she writes speculative fiction. Her short stories has appeared in many venues, including Asimov's, Interzone and the Year's Best Science Fiction. She has been shortlisted for the Campbell Award for Best New Writer and for the British Science Fiction Association Awards.
She has a special interest in non-Western civilisations, particularly Ancient China and Ancient Mesoamerica. Her novel Servant of the Underworld is the first in a trilogy of Aztec fantasy noir: the sequel Harbinger of the Storm will be published in 2011.

Product Description

Review

Part murder mystery, part well-researched historical novel and part fantasy. The fantasy element blends neatly with the other parts. 4 ****. -- SFX Magazine

About the Author

Aliette de Bodard is a writer and computer specialist whose short fiction has already brought her a John W Campbell Award nomination, for best newcomer. Living in Paris, Aliette is French, of Vietnamese extraction, but she writes exclusively in English. http://aliettedebodard.com/

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Out of this world 30 Dec 2013
By Rich T
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The reason most fantasy fiction sticks to European settings is because the audience understands the cultural elements of the stories. Setting your story in a different time, place and culture sometimes suffers because the story loses focus and becomes a historical or cultural lesson. Somehow Aliette de Bodard manages to portray the cultural elements of these stories with a lightness of touch so you absorb the historical elements without loses the pace of the narrative. In many ways this reminds me of the Cadfael novels, with more blood letting. Really well, tightly written with a sense of character and place evoked perfectly. Non-European fantasy should be written like this. Excellent read, recommended for anyone who wants something different.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  10 reviews
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I liked what I read but I wasn't compelled to keep reading. 6 July 2012
By Donna C - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
OBSIDIAN & BLOOD ended up being one of those books that kept me reading but I wasn't over the moon about. Don't get me wrong; I liked what I read but I only read through SERVANT OF THE UNDERWORLD. I just didn't feel compelled to keep reading.

I liked the world that de Bodard created. It felt effortless, as if it didn't need explanation. It just was. It might be because it's Mayan, of which people have a general understanding of. They may not know the workings of the years (I sure didn't) or which gods to curse to and why (something that nagged at me a lot but I eventually just started ignoring it) but even without explanation the world felt fully fleshed. It felt like it was something that actually existed. It was tangible and I believed it in absolutely from the very beginning. I'm not going to sit here and pretend I know a ton about the Mayans. I don't but reading de Bodard's world felt genuine to me.

I also liked how she made the gods beings that humans could actually interact with. They bestowed power to the priests and priestesses directly. You could visit one of their temples and speak with them as if you would speak to someone in your house (assuming your sacrifices were worthy, of course). They were a part of the created world as much as the temples and people themselves. They weren't intangible beings that people worshipped to blindly. Faith was essentially removed from the equation because the gods had proven themselves in multiple ways. No one could deny them; it would be like denying a chair. Or a reed mat.

The effortless blood-letting and sacrifice, while kind of shocking, felt like it fit. This was a natural occurrence for the Mayans, part of daily life and it was treated as such in the text. Attention wasn't drawn to it, there was never a big deal around it. If Acatl had to cut himself to serve a purpose he did it and that was that. If something had to be sacrificed it was and no one bat an eye. The author really kept herself out of the story in terms of moralizing and I really liked that. This was what the Mayans did. Full stop.

I liked Acatl as a character. He definitely had some issues to contend with especially when he started getting deeply involved in his brother's murder trial. But a distance was there. I just couldn't connect with him on a deeper level than as a character I was reading on the page. Not necessarily a bad thing but it had me skating through the story, skimming the surface.

The overall story I felt was far more murder mystery than anything fantasy. As much as I really liked the effortless feel of the world it ultimately played second string to the story as a result. Personally I like my fantasy worlds being characters in the story itself. I like them lively and front and center. So I definitely have a double standard here. I admit that. What can I say? It's just how I feel. I wished there was more of a balance between the world and the plot, where it didn't feel so much like a crime novel with a different background. I think that kept me from really connecting as well since I'm not too big on the crime genre overall. I'm okay with it but I don't actively read it.

If you're a fantasy fan the Mayan world in OBSIDIAN & BLOOD is definitely one to take a look at. It stands out again your more standard fantasy fare of castles and dragons and Merlin-like magic and whatnot. Beware of the names as I found them very hard to pronounce and don't expect to get much by the way of explanation for anything. The book is written as if the reader is already aware of the world they're reading about. So it might take some acclimating or you might end up like me and feeling a little distanced from it as a result. Still it's a pretty good read. I just didn't feel compelled to read beyond the first book.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Good CSI book, not really for the historical fiction buffs 19 Feb 2014
By Eric Becerra - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I love historical fiction, especially that which is based on pre-conquest Mexico. Although this can fall into that category, it is more on the CSI murder mystery side of literature (not my favorite) which is why I only gave it 2 stars. However, if you like that genre this may be a good book for you.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Obsidian and Blood is a visceral and thrilling ride through the Aztec culture. 29 Jun 2012
By Abhinav Jain - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Shadowhawk reviews Angry Robot Books' latest offering, Obsidian and Blood, the omnibus edition containing all the Aztec Mysteries novels and short stories featuring High Priest Acatl.

"This is one of the greatest stories ever told. Aliette de Bodard has brought Noir, Aztec and Fantasy together for an explosive and engaging mix worthy of being called a new trend in the genre. If you have ever wanted to experiment with your reading, then you'll be hard-pressed to do better than read the story of Acatl, High Priest of the Dead." ~The Founding Fields

As I mentioned in the intro to the guest post I put up yesterday, Writing Convincing Non-Western Fantasy by Aliette de Bodard, I was drawn to Obsidian and Blood because of its artwork. The pose by the character is so dynamic and telling that it just draws you in. My only concern with the omnibus was a rather critical one: would I like it, considering that this is all about Aztecs, a culture I have zero prior experience with? Outside of some random Hardy Boys novel back in the blessed days of my youth that is. Other than that, I was all ready to dig into the omnibus soon as I got an advance copy courtesy of the Angry Robot Army. All that was remaining was to find the appropriate time to read, what I presumed originally to be a time-intensive reading experience, the mammoth collection.

Note: This also happens to be the first Angry Robot omnibus I've read. First experiences are weird!

The time did arrive, about three weeks ago, and I picked up the omnibus having just finished Chris Wraight's Wrath of Iron only a few hours before. It was a surprise even for me when I burned through the entire collection in about as much time it takes me to burn through a Black Library omnibus edition. Like I said, first experiences are weird, more so in the case of my first proper exposure to Aliette's writing as I've only read a stand-alone short story by her before: Shipbirth, which is another Aztec-inspired story, a science-fiction one this time.

From the beginning of the first entry in the collection, the novel Servant of the Underworld, Aliette totally hooks you in. I was turning the pages as fast as I could because I couldn't get enough of the setting and the characters. The entire collection tells of a rather bleak yet vibrant society founded upon blood sacrifice, magic, sheer arrogance and an uneasy relationship with gods who are often cruel and vindictive. What's not to love about it? As a layman, that entire phrase describes the Mexica Empire of the Aztecs quite aptly. And each of those aspects are the primary driving forces behind all the events that in these novels.

In their own right, these are also issues that Aliette explores to one degree or another.

Blood sacrifice. This is a constant running them throughout the Acatl tales. Whether it is offering daily prayers to the gods, or performing the greatest and most powerful of spells and rituals, blood sacrifice is a highly important aspect of channeling magic in the Mexica Empire. Consequently, it just so happens that these stories also have some of the highest and most shocking body counts in any fantasy novel I've read. Doubly so for a mystery/detective-style novel.

This also really sets apart Obsidian and Blood from most other fantasy novels/series out there. The high body-count and the constant blood sacrifice mean that the thematic undercurrents in it are different from everything else. It is quite shocking at first but then that's just our biases speaking. Aztec culture and religious practices are practically alien to what we are used to, even with everything that goes on in GRRM's A Song of Ice and Fire series. All I can say is that this is a point in Aliette's favour.

You can find a full review of the omnibus over at The Founding Fields:

[...]
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Far from the standard fantasy 10 July 2012
By Timothy C Allison - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
De Bodard uses the tropes of a classic procedural mystery to take us through her fantasy Aztec world. Our protagonist investigates a murder, which proves to be the string that eventually unravels plots and machinations that extend far beyond the obvious fatality. Think Chandler or "Chinatown".
Her vision of Aztec society is fascinating. The gods and monsters are all too real. Cruel beings which at their most compassionate must be bribed into allowing human existence. Sacrifices of blood and pain are necessities to ensure the survival of the world itself.
"Obsidian and Blood" is an omnibus collecting all three of her novels in this mythos, as well as some short stories. It is very very bloody and horrific at times. If that poses no problem, these books are highly recommended for readers looking for something outside the common faux European fantasy settings.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining 15 Mar 2014
By A. S. Good - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
Picked this up on a fluke, was very pleasantly surprised. A mystery series encompassing a totally alien religion. I did stumble over the names a bit, but was worth the read. Four stars due to some mixing of cultures that were inconsistent, Acatyl should not know about stocks as punishment, but still thought it was worth the effort.
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