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Fifth Sun: A New History of the Aztecs

Fifth Sun: A New History of the AztecsFifth Sun: A New History of the Aztecs by Camilla Townsend
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

"This was no stable world of immutable beliefs but instead a shifting, constantly altering world."

This is a marvelously well-written history of the Aztecs. Subverting the standard little bit of that history most of us know. And presenting a rich, mesmerizing culture full of complex and interesting characters and ideas.

One of her goals is to present the conquest as a turning point in Mexica history and not as the ending, so the conquest comes in the middle of the book. The early chapters are on the rise of the Mexica and the creation of Tenochtitlan within the context of the larger Nahuatl culture of the central basin. Then the later chapters are how generations of Mexica responded to the conquest and maintained their language, culture, and identity in the face of crisis.

So they come across as excellent guides to resilience in the midst of catastrophe.

In each chapter she focuses on particular characters and paints them in vivid detail. There is Shield Flower, early in Mexica history crying out at her captors. Flamingo Snake, the performer, who charms a king. Malintzin who in a crucial moment claims her voice and agency leading to her rescue and power. Tecuichpotzin, with whom you suffer the indignities of a royal princess at the time of conquest. And Chimalpahin the historian who works devoutly to rescue the stories of his people.

I'm grateful to have met them and others and to now have a better grasp of this part of our human story.

View all my reviews


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