Wednesday, 11 September 2013

The Bone Flower Throne (The Bone Flower Trilogy #1) by T.L. Morganfield

arc provided by Panverse Publishing LLC through netgalley

trigger warnings: self-harm, rape, incest, violence

Quetzalpetlatl is the king's only legitimate daughter - his queen having become barren giving birth to their daughter. In need of a male heir, the king and his brother decide to marry their children, Quetzalpetlatl and Black Otter, while they are still children. But the feathered serpent god Quetzalcoatl visits the queen in a dream and tells her that, if she'll swallow a jade pebble, she'll conceive the long awaited heir.

This is how the book starts, and to be honest, it lulled me into a false sense of security, it seemed so much like standard YA that I even forgot it was most definitely not YA. This is soon apparent with all the violence, incest, rape and gore that follows.

I had to struggle with myself, as I imagine many readers will, when it comes to the incest in this book. It wasn't a taboo in that particular culture, but it's a very ingrained one in mine, so even when I wanted to root for some things I couldn't help but feel repulsed by them, at the same time. This is a failure of mine as a reader and as a person, I should be more open minded, but I'd be lying if I didn't mention how that may have affected my reading of this book - logically I can't even think of a way for the author to write about these characters without including incest and that, I can tell for sure, would make me lower the rating because it would be a cowardly cop-out.
As it is, I just want to make it clear, it was not an easy book for me.

I also feel like my lack of knowledge on this particular culture will hinder me when it comes to properly praising it in this review. But make not mistake, the book is amazing - I couldn't even put it down, I had to read it all in one go.

Weirdly, it reminded me a lot of Marion Zimmer Bradley's work - not because of the incest bits! - there's that overarching religious battle occurring throughout the whole plot, and while it's a completely different mythology from the one in Mists of Avalon (or maybe not, I'm certainly no expert on comparative mythology, though that's an intriguing idea which I shall have to research later), the feelings I experienced, as a reader, were much the same for both works. There's the whole religious conflict seeming to take more importance among mortals than the Gods, there are all the political intrigues and plots, the forbidden (and not so forbidden but it feels like they should be forbidden) romances, there's loss and tragedy, the character's lives being destroyed and rebuilt again - the constant hope.
I guess, given who the characters are, it would be a fairer comparison to the works of Christian Jacq, who also weaves historical fact with myth, and those two with storytelling.
But T.L. Morganfield, is a much more skilled storyteller than Jacq, so we're back to Zimmer Bradley...

Comparisons aside, Morganfield is an author that managed to deeply impress me (no small feat, I'm notoriously stingy with my ratings), she managed to introduce me to a whole new culture (as I said, I'm very uninformed about the subject matter) without a single instance of info-dump, and yet I never felt lost in the story. And the plot is immensely addictive, as I mentioned above, I read this in one sitting.

I think the book may suffer, unjustly, because of the themes it approaches, though they were a vital inclusion when discussing the time period. But I hope it will manage to rise above that, because this showed some extremely skilful writing, worthy of being noticed and praised.

That being said, I can't wait for the sequel!


Susana's Review:

DNF at 30%


Arc provided by netgalley

Unfortunately this wasn't able to convince me...
The narrator's voice, that starts out as a seven year old, Quetzalpetltl, sounded very inconsistent. One minute she would be very childish, and then completely grown up.

This story strongest point would be it's setting: Tenth century aztec culture (of which i'm completely clueless).
The thing is, this is a very diluted aztec environment, with language more appropriate to our days, and a somewhat soap "opera" tone.
In fact, it seems the author was more focused on respecting history regarding the names used in those times and culture, and a few (gorish) rituals.

The read became boring, since i just couldn't connect with Quetzalpetlatl voice.

The political intrigue part...well that's a little too far fetched for this. That would imply some ...finesse.
What we get instead are assassinations.
That's not political intrigue.
That's warfare. (prefered methods: hearts ripped out of chests, cutted heads, and poisons!)
So our main character, is forced to marry her cousin when they're both kids. Then her husband's father (and uncle) decide to kill her father, the king. She and very much pregnant mother (she swallowed a magic rock) escape, but her mother ends up dying giving birth to Little Reed, who will also be known as Topiltzin.

Then all of a sudden, ten years have passed. Q and Little Reed have both grown up. She's now seventeen, and he's actually ten...but since he's the son of a God, he has the appearance of a seventeen year old.
And his sister desires him.
That's right, incest alert.
Look, like i said i'm completely clueless about this world. And yes, we all know that morality is a subjective to culture.  So, if the brothers had to be forced (or not) to marriage or something of the kind, that would be more easy to understand...this, not really!!
She raised her brother, so it's just double....yuck...

Her words brought images of him “soothing those desires” with me on the altar in Quetzalcoatl’s temple.

If the story had an actual political plot, and other characters with relevant roles, maybe this....direction wouldn't be required.

And then i got into the rape scene, and the victim blaming. You can say: this has happened throughout time itself.
Yes, it has. But that doesn't mean i have to read it, especially when it follows a long descriptive segment of "cheap thrills".

Bottom Line: Interesting idea, less than great execution....
I won't be reading any other book of this series.

T.L. Morganfield's official site

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