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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great read from start to finish
Elizabeth Manson Bahr's first book is a historical novel depicting the Spanish conquest of central Mexico, primarily between the years of 1519 and 1527. It provides a glimpse into the world of the Aztec, a society whose apparent contradictions come together when looked at through the eyes of its people. Manson Bahr gives the reader the opportunity to do this by relating...
Published on 13 July 2009 by Alonso P. - Oxford Mexican Society

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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lacks precision, clarity and a sense of scale
This is a strangely bland and small narrative for something that purports to tell of the epic fall of a civilisation. I knew practically nothing about the Aztecs (one of the reasons why I wanted to read this book) but am not sure that I know much more having finished it. None of the characters have any stature, except possibly Falling Eagle, and so it was difficult for me...
Published on 5 Dec 2009 by Roman Clodia


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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great read from start to finish, 13 July 2009
This review is from: Children of the Sun: The Fall of the Aztecs (Hardcover)
Elizabeth Manson Bahr's first book is a historical novel depicting the Spanish conquest of central Mexico, primarily between the years of 1519 and 1527. It provides a glimpse into the world of the Aztec, a society whose apparent contradictions come together when looked at through the eyes of its people. Manson Bahr gives the reader the opportunity to do this by relating the sequence of events that lead to the final collapse of the Aztec Empire through an interweaving of narratives in the voices of members of the Aztec nobility, particularly those of Montezuma II and his family.

Combining a compelling story with an engaging writing style, the author draws the reader in from the start. She successfully conveys the feelings of the Aztec - from the expectation and confusion of their first contact with the Spanish to the desperation of watching their world fall apart. The reader empathizes with the characters as they struggle to understand what is happening around them and why. Poignant throughout, Children of the Sun impresses with well developed characters and vivid descriptions of one of history's most dramatic culture clashes. I highly recommend it.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointingly Lightweight - Lacking Excitement - Missing the Point, 26 May 2010
This review is from: Children of the Sun: The Fall of the Aztecs (Hardcover)
Being both a tremendous fan of historical fiction, and an avid reader of Aztec/Conquistador history, I had very high hopes for this novel. Unfortunately they were unfounded. With historical fiction there is often a compromise between historical accuracy, or the delivery of gripping action. In this misconceived book you get neither.

Although the accuracy of the names and dates may be correct, the author's feeling for the era is completely laughable. At one point early in the novel the "Woman Snake" - high Priest of the Aztecs, complains about juggling his work/life balance - a preposterously 21st century conceit for a 16th Century warlord. Likewise the characterisation of Moctezuma is woeful from the start - he's a complete wimp from the word go -totally failing to conjure up any sense of decent opposition to Cortes or real jeopardy in the story.

Perhaps it would be possible to overlook these discrepancies if they were subsumed by the thrills and pace of the narrative. Unfortunately not. This is much more a book about how people feel, rather than what people did, and as such it lacks the excitement you might expect from such a ripping yarn. Concentrating on how people feel works fine in works of literary fiction vying for the Booker Prize, here it just seems incongruous with the history.

What is essentially a very male historical narrative seems unduly feminized with the introduction of extraneous female characters, their inner thoughts, and a continuous focus on people's feelings. Needless to say - the coverage of battles in the book is utterly disastrous. Despite the thrilling tactical nature of all the battles - well documented in history - scant attention is payed to this crucial aspect of the story. For me this was the greatest omission and the reason why the book fails.

Ultimately if any reader is looking for a novel to explore this period of history, look no further than Gary Jennings "Aztec" - a masterful tour de force that accurately captures the attitudes of the time, whilst delivering a relentlessly gripping read. Don't bother buying this book.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lacks precision, clarity and a sense of scale, 5 Dec 2009
By 
Roman Clodia (London) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Children of the Sun: The Fall of the Aztecs (Hardcover)
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This is a strangely bland and small narrative for something that purports to tell of the epic fall of a civilisation. I knew practically nothing about the Aztecs (one of the reasons why I wanted to read this book) but am not sure that I know much more having finished it. None of the characters have any stature, except possibly Falling Eagle, and so it was difficult for me to get a sense of who they were. This was especially problematic with Montezuma, since he came over as just weak, vacillating, compromised and politically-nave so that rather than the defeat of the Aztecs being a tragedy, it seemed inevitable from the start. According to their portrayal in this book the only surprise was the idea of them ever having conquered anything in the first place.

Some of the plot descends to a soap-opera story-line with women competing (of course) for the various men, and some of the language was very odd: Jewel, Montezuma's daughter, watches the Mexica dancing and thinks to herself that they look `very droll'; Montezuma himself describes Cortes as `a young dandy', diction far more fitting to Jane Austen, in my view, than C16th central Americans.

I never really felt that the book conveyed a sense of an alien civilisation and mind-set: a woman, for example, wonders how her mother can bear to share her husband with other women, and another complains that her husband is not good at juggling work and family life - both smacking completely of `our' C21st way of thinking, rather than `theirs'.

I could forgive these flaws if the narrative itself had stood up better but for me it was limp and unevocative. There were a lot of mentions of jewels, chocolate, tobacco and feathers but more than physical trimmings and window-dressing are needed to convey both a historical and alien sense of atmosphere. The battles, particularly, were a disaster, just skimmed over and avoided which is a real problem in a story about the conquest of a people. And the story overall lacked pace, tension and excitement.

I have given this 3* as I did manage to read it to the end, but I found it a very disappointing book with a nave sense of history and other cultures which ends up normalising them both and making them just like `us' - with feathers on.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Review on behalf of The British Mexican Society, 25 Aug 2009
This review is from: Children of the Sun: The Fall of the Aztecs (Hardcover)
Like me, you may be somewhat wary of fictional interpretations of history, whether of the Hollywood variety or in novels: do they tell you what really happened or are they products of the script-writer's/novelist's imagination? Elizabeth Manson Bahr has written a novel - her first - depicting the fall of the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlán from the point of view of a few of the most-involved characters in the story: the Emperor himself and members of his family - many with their own influential roles in society, together with other representative members of that society - principally a maidservant and a wealthy merchant.

So how accurately can a twenty-first century writer delve into that world? Certainly not without a great deal of painstaking research which the author has clearly not stinted on, and which provides a persuasive background to the imaginary thoughts, conversations and actions which create the "plot" - its outcome never in doubt, of course - of the novel. Although I could not banish the skeptical thoughts which kept surfacing ("there's no record of conversations like this"; "she can't know that anything like that really happened"), they were gradually replaced by reflections that such things might have occurred given the cultural and intellectual world of the Mexica documented by commentators who were present at the time, details of which the author manages to slip in unobtrusively as natural adjuncts to the action, not as an obvious history lesson. In fact, those interested in Mexican history and aware of the crucial role of the events depicted will find in it a stimulus to reflection on how such events affected the real people involved, both the Spanish and the Mexica, and how members of the two cultures must have appeared to each other with all their apparently unbridgeable differences.

Anyone not so interested can simply enjoy a gripping story, well-told and full of exciting incident, even if the denouement can come as no surprise. One is drawn into the world of Moctezuma's favourite daughter, married to her cousin (his nephew) and the events of the two turbulent years which changed her life. Bahr has used English forms of their names (as with most others), and so Tecuichpo and Cuauhtémoc, last Emperor of the Mexica, become Jewel and Falling Eagle. The outcome is a poignant, and - depending on your point of view - a tragic one for Mexico, but Jewel, unlike her sisters, is a survivor. The brief summary of the rest of her life at the end of the book leaves one wanting to know more about her (cue novel number two?), and also to seek out some of the many historical sources of the extraordinary events which form the background to this very readable book.

Rosalind Maudslay on behalf of the British Mexican Society.
August 2009
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, 4 Feb 2010
This review is from: Children of the Sun: The Fall of the Aztecs (Hardcover)
This is a great novel, telling the tale of the fall of the Aztecs and the invasion of Cortez and the Spanish. The book recreates vividly everyday life in the time of the aztecs and the feel of desperation among the people as their world collapsed around them. Hamstrung by tradition that demanded warfare to be ritualised and religion that foretold this ending of days, the Aztecs were in trouble from the beginning and this is the tale of their downfall.
The book goes a little fuzzy from the death of montezuma onwards, and I started to lose track of the story a little but the colourful writing and the prefect capturing of the flavour of the times pulls it through. I highly enjoyed this book, definitely one to recommend.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A gripping insight into the fall of a civilization, 21 Dec 2009
By 
David J. Kelly (Scotland) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Children of the Sun: The Fall of the Aztecs (Hardcover)
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This novel covers the end of the empire of the Mexica, better known as the Aztecs. It starts with Montezuma, the Emperor of the Mexica, learning about the arrival of Cortez and his men. Manson Bahr looks at the Mexica sympathetically, they were a cultured race who developed a great civilization but their religion was based on human sacrifice. She also describes how the Mexica fought wars for honour and captives according to strict rules while the Europeans fought "total war" for subjugation and pillage. The novel takes us through the last years of the Mexica from the captivity and death of Montezuma through the seige of the island city of Tenochtitlan and its fall to the conquistadores. It ends with the Mexica nobility giving up their pagan religion and converting to Catholicism.

Before I read this novel I was only slightly aware of the story of the Spanish conquest of Mexico and all I knew of the Mexica was their tradition of human sacrifice. I now know that there was more to the Mexica and that their civilisation had some great achievements. The island gardens which still exist in Mexico were one such and here they grew many of the foods which the Spanish brought back to Europe. One faunal error is that the book mentions pheasants and partridges which are native to the Old World and would not be present in Mexico before the arrival of the Europeans. Despite that little bit of ornithological pedantry I did enjoy the book and its telling of one of the most important episodes in human history.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars good read but a tongue twister, 19 Dec 2009
By 
gadget girl "wifi" (sussex) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Children of the Sun: The Fall of the Aztecs (Hardcover)
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the story is a historically set one of the downfall of the aztec empire and if you like the topic then you are not going to go wrong with this one. the aztecs have some interest to me as do the egyptians (see river god - wilbur smith),although i knew nothing other than they had temples,gold and chocolate and had suffered some kind of disaster to their way of life, i find historical novels of this sort which are well reasearched to be alot more interesting than the sometimes dry stories of real hisory books. its a sound first novel and enjoyable although ive no idea if my pronounciations are anywhere near correct :-)
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly Wonderful, Absolutely Loved It., 16 Dec 2009
By 
Astore Stargazer (Lancashire) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Children of the Sun: The Fall of the Aztecs (Hardcover)
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As an avid reader of history and a palette for sampling different cultures and subcultures I have already brushed up on some of the South and Central American Tribes. Although I claim not to be an expert on the subject I merely have read just to widen my understanding. When I saw this book I immediately ordered it and put down my current reading. I was not disappointed.

The only thing that surprised me about this book as that it is written in a novel format. It isn't an historical essay that I was expecting but to be honest it only enhanced the book as a whole. Written from the Aztec point of view when Hernan Cortes landed in 1519. The authors words are easy to read but what she has done is brought to life many aspects of the day to day Aztec life. This I feel is captured better in the format of a novel as opposed to a historical representation and was one of the major factors that sets this book apart from many of its genre and puts it out in front. The author who has a wonderful insight to Aztec life and recounts not just the niceties but also the gruesome parts of Human sacrifices etc, another aspect captured better brought to life in the novel format.

Unfortunately for the Aztecs the story doesn't end well for them, but like all good stories there is plenty here to get your teeth into. Treachery and deceit littered with a wonderful array of colorful characters make this retelling a most impressive piece of work.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Chillingly brilliant, 11 Dec 2009
By 
Mrs. J. Jones "janejones" (Chester) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Children of the Sun: The Fall of the Aztecs (Hardcover)
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Elizabeth Manson Bahr has managed to conjure up an incredibly life-like portrayal of the last days of the Aztecs, told through the story of a young girl called Jewel, the youngest daughter of the Emperor Montezuma. Thoroughly researched, yet not in the slightest academic, this reads like a novel but is full of amazing history. And what a bloody history it is, the Aztec empire awash with sacrificial blood and then the Spanish coming in with disease and slaughter. Amidst all of this mayhem is some beautiful description of a forgotten civilisation, all but erased from the earth. A horrifying tale of man's inhumanity to man, yet suffused with the survivial instinct of one young girl. A real achievement.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Slow burner, but well worth the effort for a very human story, 2 Dec 2009
This review is from: Children of the Sun: The Fall of the Aztecs (Hardcover)
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Children of the Sun is the story of the conquest of Tenochtitlan through the eyes of the Mexica. Despite some question marks over the authenticity of story's details, it's a wonderfully rich narrative of human tragedy, and an evocative lament for the loss of a civilisation.

For me, the book took some getting into - I disagree with other reviewers that its a gripping read from start to finish. In the first hundred or so pages I kept questioning whether the author had simply made up the details of the story to make a good fiction. However, sometime around the middle of the book I stopped worrying about this, as the story picked up pace and the characters really came to life.

The novel is written from the perspectives of various main characters, mainly Moctezuma II and his daughter Jewel, and this means that sometimes the writing style is quite odd - the story will jump days or weeks and it can be quite hard to follow and occasionally frustrating. But this is a minor gripe in what is otherwise an immersive and fascinating story. The last 50 pages are particularly well-written and very poignant.

It's an added bonus that I learnt a great deal about Mexican history and the Spanish conquest into the bargain.

Overall: Heartily recommended - it might take you a bit of time to get into this book but do persevere and it'll be well worth it!
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Children of the Sun: The Fall of the Aztecs
Children of the Sun: The Fall of the Aztecs by Elizabeth Manson Bahr (Hardcover - 28 May 2009)
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