In Cuauhtemoc: Descendant of the Jaguar, the third in D L Davies’ fantasy series set in 16th century South America, readers learn more about Cuauhtemoc’s supernatural side and how the teen-aged emperor of Maya got his powers.
In the first two installments, the boy learned to fly a hang glider and became a birdman/messenger. He was later adopted by the emperor and rose to emperor himself. His most important talents thus far are a perfect memory, the ability to converse with animals, a facility for human languages such that he learns them in a few days, the power to transform into a giant jaguar and incredible charisma. These make him all but invincible and enable Davies’ version of history to work. It is disappointing, however, to discover that the boy emperor is the seventh son of a seventh son. This announcement comes out of the blue, as there has been no mention of Cuauhtemoc’s brothers in previous books. In addition, the seventh-son myth has been used so often in fantasy literature that it has become a cliche.
While a young adult market appeared to be the target audience for the first Cuauhtemoc book, some revelations in the current novel may be a bit strong for young readers. In Davies’ alternate history, many of today’s cultural taboos are commonplace, including polygamy, nudity, torture, and mistreatment of women. Some may be shocked to learn that Cuauhtemoc’s grandfather is also his father, though the fact that his mother has mated with her own father doesn’t seem to faze any of the Mayans.
davies manages to convey what took place in previous episodes without seeming redundant, and Jaguar is much more tightly constructed than the first two stories. But it is really the minor characters that make this third book enjoyable. A displaced Spaniard, a British admiral, CuauhtÃ©moc’s youngest adopted brother, pirates and other nefarious villains provide the excitement and swashbuckling adventure one expects from historical fantasy.
A fourth installment, Cuauhtmoec: Deception and Treason, will follow.