on 19 June 2013
First off, this is an extremely enjoyable and emotionally engaging book. It's not history, but it takes historical events and brings them to life through the fictionalised first person point of view narratives of various people set in historical settings. There is the gold and conquest crazed Spanish, who are seen through the eyes of a fourteen-year-old slave boy, as well as a bloodthirsty psychopathic lieutenant, and Cortez himself, who is written as an ambitious, conquest hungry violent man who justifies his actions through a highly dubious and unconvincing reading of the Bible, and instructional dreams of `Saint Peter,' who is most probably a demon intent on causing as much death and misery as possible. The Mayan, Aztec and Mexica people are seen through the eyes of a slave girl witch who escapes the gruesome `fattening pen,' a beautiful courtesan/prostitute, a rival war chieftain who opposes the sacrifice crazed Mexica, and the leader of the Mexica, the historical Moctezuma, who is portrayed as a cowardly psychopath who is being manipulated by a blood thirsty demon who has disguised itself as a God. The most interesting thing about this book is not the individuals themselves, but the `Gods' who are manipulating the story through their influence on the main characters in the narrative. These `Gods' appear in different forms to the different characters, but they all appear to have one thing in common. That being, they want blood, and they want as much blood as is possible. Gods, or demons pretending to be Gods? It's a fascinating question, and one that has as much relevance today as it did back in the times of Cortez and Moctezuma. This book is just the beginning of the story of the Spanish conquest of Mexico. It follows the Spanish into their first major battle, and as it ends they have their eyes on the big prize. The city of Tenochtitlan, the capital city of the Mexica, and the land that promises the Gold that the Spanish are prepared to butcher and murder for. It's a fantastic beginning, and the epic first battle between the technological advanced Spanish war machine and a woefully unprepared and overmatched Mayan tribe is awful, yet highly informative. Telling the reader exactly how such a small band of just five hundred men defeated a huge army of tens of thousands of brave but technologically overmatched warriors.
In conclusion, this is a fantastic page turning work of historical fiction. The big problem was always going to be that the Spanish were obviously murderous scumbags, and the Aztecs themselves were human sacrifice hungry scumbags as well. How do you pull for either side, when both sides consist of serial killing, murderous psychopaths who are perfectly willing to butcher thousands of people to serve their own war Gods, who are almost certainly the same demons pretending to be Gods, in order to get both sides butchering each other? It could have been an insurmountable problem, but by telling the story through characters on both sides who are essentially slaves, the author (Graham Hancock) largely gets around this problem, as the reader can pull for the individual rather than either sides of the psychopathic, blood thirsty, warring armies.
When you finish a book and your first reaction is disappointment that you've finished and there's nothing more to read, you know the author has done his job. That's how I felt after reading War God: Nights of the witch. Luckily for me, and anybody else reading this fantastic book, this book is just the beginning. The story will continue in, War God: Return of the plumed serpent. Put my name down for that one as well. I'm looking forward to reading it already.