Servant of the Underworld by Aliette de Bodard

I first heard about Aliette de Bodard through her short story The Shipmaker which I enjoyed so much that I voted for it in the 2010 BSFA awards (which it won). I bought this book expecting to really enjoy it. Unfortunately the first four pages did not really pull me in and I put this book down for three months.

Moving forwards to last week, and I was wondering what to read next whilst on vacation. I decided to give this book another go. I am bloody glad that I did. I read this book in three days and it would have been less if my wife didn’t insist on me actually interacting with people on holiday. Visiting the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts and seeing some lovely Central American exhibits helped to capture my imagination even further.

This is a detective story and has all the elements you would expect. The unique flavour of this story is the Aztec setting. I certainly haven’t seen another book where the detective is a High Priest of the Dead in an ancient central American culture. There is plenty of action, and the dialogue keeps things moving nicely. The setting was believable and yet I was still able to relate to aspects of such an alien culture.

As usual the lovely people at Angry Robot Books have give us some extra goodies at the back. I particularly enjoyed the author’s account of how the book was written, plus all the academic referenced used for source material. For me this was a really interesting insight into the level of research required to produce a work of historical fiction. In my opinion the research time paid off and was an integral part of my enjoyment of this book.

If you enjoy a good mystery and fancy a change from the usual settings then this is a good choice of read. Equally, if you enjoy historical novels or the Aztec culture then this will be right up your alley.

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