Five Dances with Death
is a historical/fantasy adventure in which, much like the sorceress Plume plunges her husband into ethereal travel, the reader is firmly immersed in a distant time and place to live in the mind and body of Angry Wasp as he tries to save both his country and his daughter during the onset of the Spanish conquest of Mexico.
The writing is a perfect blend of description while maintaining the feeling of having been translated, which grants the the storytelling an authentic voice. In places, the dialogue is both shocking and humorous. The internal dialogue shows such truth and heart, I found myself growing fond of the rash young man who danced with both demons and nobility.
Often I found myself stopping to reread lines that were especially insightful. In one example, Angry Wasp was asked how he and a trader could both want the same thing, yet they could never agree on anything. Angry Wasp replied, "Time after time, your ideas betray the very principles we warriors believe in. You want to ignore insults. You wish to befriend invaders. You want to risk your head to see the obvious." I love the combination of primitive and noble thought--the adherence to ideals pursued to their absolute end. Even when Wasp has his greatest desire in hand, he will not betray the guiding principles of his life to attain it. The struggle is fascinating, as is this "Aztec Supernatural Adventure Novel."
This novel reminds me of another that I enjoyed, Prophets of the Ghost Ants. (I seem to be intrigued by rash and imperfect young heroes on the road to greatness.) Those brash warriors make me wince, yet their actions are never boring. So many NY Times-tooted books that quickly draw large followings seem --often, but not always-- to be shallow, or empty. I'm finding gems among debut writers without all the marketing hype to launch them. I do hope they find their audience as well.
I found nothing to complain about during the entire read of this novel. --And that is highly unusual. I'm now a fan of Mr. Briggs, and am looking forward to the sequel.