Five Dances with Death

By Austin Briggs

In this book Briggs displays an incredible world drawn in historical fiction, and mixes it with fantasy. It’s set during the Spanish Conquest of Mexico, which contributes to an underlying tone of eventual doom. The protagonist, Angry Wasp, is trying to keep his nation safe while also searching for his long lost daughter. Nations around him are becoming more inclined towards war, and the Spanish are beginning to march inland. There is quite a lot of violence and sacrifice in this book, but I found the descriptions tasteful and not overly gratuitous. Angry Wasp certainly lives up to his name, and in the beginning makes many impulsive decisions. In his character we see progressions, and a few recessions, in his development. Briggs’ simple language worked excellently, and most of the dialog came off as authentic and translated. The ending was actually a surprise and twist, which was lovely.

I realized towards the end of the book that I didn’t care what would happen to Angry Wasp. It was an odd realization as he’s an interesting and realistic character to read about- but between the amount of casual death and a lack of sympathy for him, I found myself rather neutral towards his fate, yet wrapped up in his story. As a warning, when reading this you really have to pay attention with the multitude of places, and jumping from reality to outer body experiences with spiritual doubles. A map in the beginning of the book would have been very helpful.

I found this a great story, that also filled a niche that should certainly be expanded. In my American history classes and books, it tended to be about how Europe colonized America, rather than placing emphasis on the people who were actually living there and being invaded. You can also feel the depth of knowledge Briggs has about this time, and it grounds the story without being distracting.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction.

Nibble {first sentence of prologue}: “I had challenged Talon to the ballgame because my daughter Dew had been his slave as long as she knew how to walk.”

My Rating: 8 out of 10 fresh jumping apples

I received a free electronic copy of this book from the author via LibraryThing.

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2 responses

  1. Angry Wasp. What a name. Well, it’s hard to be sympathetic toward a wasp…unless it’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (that was her, Lisbeth Salander’s, handle). Say, you should check out the Vinland Sagas; like most Icelandic Sagas, they’re like historical…well, tall-tales. They tell of the Norse discovery of the Americas in the year 1000…and how the natives there sent them packing! It’s still told by Europeans, though. They’re very short. (Two Sagas make up the Vinland Sagas–basically two tellings of the same story.) A good introduction to the Sagas. Gee, this sure was a stream of consciousness reply!

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