Death of the Fifth Sun

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

At the birth of Ce Malinalli, the narrator of this novel, astrological signs foretell that she will bring death and destruction to those around her. According to Aztec beliefs, she should be killed; instead, saved by her non-Aztec father, she is given an upbringing more fitting to the son of the house. Her childhood on a military outpost of the empire equips her with the skills and experience which help to change her world.

Among the first captives of the Spanish conquistadors, Malinche, as she is known, sees in the Spanish leader, Cortes, the return of the Aztec god, Plumed Serpent. Attracted to both the man and the god, she becomes his translator, a warrior in his army, and ultimately his mistress. In this position of power, she uses her influence to aid Cortes and schemes to bring down the empire.

Now an old woman, she has outlived most of the other participants in the bloody conquest and has become a legend in her country. In her retelling of the dramatic story of the death of a great civilization, she becomes the bridge between the two worlds in conflict. Consorting with the Spanish never really changes her innermost thoughts and feelings.

Based on historical fact and real characters, this novel brings to life a mysterious world often misunderstood or forgotten. Pagan rituals, battles, and political intrigue create tension and bring excitement to the story, but the more serious reader may also be interested in the questions the story raises about the power of religion and man’s compulsion to destroy that which is different.