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The Destruction of the Aztecs in the Search for Gold - an Editorial Review of "Broken Bones"

Author Bio:

Ever since Edward was young, he has enjoyed writing. College gave him the chance to combine his interest in history with his passion for storytelling and he mainly writes historical fiction now. To research The Serpent and the Eagle, Edward read centuries-old texts and traveled to Mexico repeatedly, even retracing Cortés’ route through central Mexico. For his writing, he has won the Grand Prize Award in the 2018 Chaucer Book Awards and the Deixler-Swain prize for his undergraduate thesis on the Spanish-Mexica war. To learn more about Edward and his work, visit his website at

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Editorial Review:

I fear we may not be remembered at all,” Cuauhtemoc said, his voice thick with regret. “So much of what we have built has been destroyed. The skull racks have been toppled, the temples have been desecrated, and our warriors have been humbled... what is there to remember us by, besides broken bones and shattered spears?”

From the outset, Edward Rickford delivers a vast and remarkable painting of life during Cortés' invasion of Mexica. Each stroke, each line, is a dive into a treasure trove of the massive amount of historical research the author did for this novel – and upon surfacing at the end of the book, the reader clutches a bounty gold within their heart and mind – more so than Cortes did when he went in search of gold in this sprawling land of the Mexica.

The brief blurb rendered on Amazon, of a 'pale people escaping Tenochtitlan; with the Mexica warriors clamoring for revenge (to no avail), the army in disarray, and the allies losing their faith,' is merely a glimpse, a smidgen of what this book offers. The reader is set in the midst of the story, among the lives of several characters whose every thought is survival - from Cortés, the bold conquering conquistador, to Cuauhtemoc, the Great Speaker and warrior, to Malintze, Cortés' beautiful translator and slave woman, and, finally, to a young boy, Pozon, whose life is ripped apart as he watches his friends and family slaughtered before his eyes. Every aspect of life is addressed, from noble to pauper, and rich to poor.

So many times, historical fiction readers are inundated with stories of English history with battling knights and feuding nobles, so this was a refreshing journey into a part of history unknown to me, as a reader and reviewer. Cortés' name was familiar from the brief history lessons in school, but Rickford's book is an encyclopedia of knowledge. But, let me clarify, not in an informational dump sort of way. His skill as a writer shines forth brighter than the sun rising over the tops of the Aztecan pyramids.

Cortés was pale as parchment and weak as a newborn. He could neither feed himself nor stand and was wholly dependant upon his retainers. To see him so reduced was odd, like seeing a star matador beg for plaudits, but it was also humbling. For so long, Cortés' name had inspired fear and awe. Now it evoked only pity.

Interwoven through the narrative are various characters, all linked within this fight for freedom, from a young boy taken as a slave, to a princess worried about her future, to the many men who fought to try to free Mexica from the grip of the teote (which, according to Wikipedia means: Teotl is a key to understanding the fall of the Aztec empire, because it seems that the Aztec ruler Moctezuma II and the Aztec people referred to Cortés and the conquistadors as Teotl. The Aztecs may have considered the conquistadors to be gods, but another interpretation is "mysterious" or "inexplicable"). The characters are incredibly believable, suffering the loss of their culture and way of life... and a reader can't help but recall very recent events unfolding in our own modern day. Time and again, history repeats itself, and people are reminded that humans are humans and experience the same calamities no matter where they live.

Even the suffering they experience due to the “Great Rash” (smallpox) shows this repetition through time, and helps the reader to relate on a very personal level with the characters in the book.

This is by no means a quick read, especially in light of the fact of having to mold your mind around the pronunciation of the names, which is no easy feat. But, that being said, the effort is well worth the time, if you can sort through the names. I will say, even though this is a stand-alone novel, reading the first two in the series is probably a must so as to immerse yourself completely in Mr Rickford's historical world of the Aztecs, Mexicans, and Spanish, so as to listen to their unique voices, see the diversity in the faces and eyes, and understand the different cultures intermingling within this remarkable book. The complexity is immense, authentic, and fascinating. Within this review are a few noted selections which stood out from the pages and pages of saved passages I highlighted along this journey, but, by no means, show the amount of 'gold' within. I highly recommend your own quest... you will not be disappointed.

More and more, he longed for the charms of home. He missed the tolling of church bells, the sight of fresh-fallen snow, the taste of fresh milk. And he missed his family. His mother had such a beautiful voice, but he could no longer remember the hymns she sang under her breath. Cousin Maria had such soft eyes, but he could no longer remember if they were brown or green. Did Father still fret over his bald pate? Had Uncle Gonzalo sired any more bastards? Did any of them pray for him still?


Broken Bones and Shattered Spears” by Edward Rickford receives five stars and the “Highly Recommended” award from The Historical Fiction Company



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