A Forest of Kings

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Linda Schele, an authority in Mayan art and epigraphy, and David Freidel, a specialist in Mayan archaeology, are both scholars. A FOREST OF KINGS, however, is addressed to the interested reader as well as to the scholarly professional. The historical charts, linguistic notes, maps, line diagrams, glossary of gods and icons, footnotes, and bibliographical references are interlaced with anecdotal essays that describe Schele’s first glimpse of the ruins of Palenque, or Freidel’s sense of awe when he encounters the great Sun mask in Belize. The authors also include vignettes, fictionalized narratives reconstructing the thoughts and feelings of historical figures. These “dramatizations” are not always successful.

The name Chichen Itza is likely to be familiar to most readers, and it is to this fabled heart of the Mayan empire that the authors turn after describing southern Yucatan. While the Mayan kingdoms of the southern lowlands were collapsing in political chaos, Chichen Itza [‘well of the Itza’] extended its influence throughout Mesoamerica. The authors argue that the north resisted the social collapse of the south because the northern nobility developed a new system of political governance called MUL TEPAL or joint rule. Unlike the art and architecture of the southern kingdoms, which delineates dynastic history, the focus in Chichen Itza is upon rituals of dedication carried out by groups of nobles.

The authors of this richly illustrated text recognize that much research remains to be done before the texts of Chichen Itza can be adequately interpreted and the “untold story” of the ancient Maya fully told.

Sources for Further Study

Booklist. LXXXVII, October 1, 1990, p.252.

Chicago Tribune. November 15, 1990, V, p.1.

Kirkus Reviews. LVIII, September 1, 1990, p.1236.

Library Journal. CXV, August, 1990, p.124.

Los Angeles Times Book Review. December 23, 1990, p.4.

The New York Times Book Review. XCV, December 16, 1990, p.18.

Publishers Weekly CCXXXVII, August 31, 1990, p.56.