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Review: Demon of the Air by Simon Levack

 Review: Demon of the Air by Simon Levack

Simon Levack's debut novel, Demon of the Air, the first in his'Aztec series, earned him a number of accolades and awards, and having spent much of Sunday firmly ensconced in the Levack's recreation of Aztec Mexico, I can see why.

Demon of the Air is set a mere two years before the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors, and already there is a quiet murmur amongst the Aztecs in relation to various sightings of these strange pale-skinned people. This particular temporality proves essential to the mystery that follows, and also sets up Levack's following novels in a clever manner'after all, this is certainly not a context that could be considered benign or dull.

In fact, this is where much of Demon of' the Air's readability stems from. Levack does an admirable job of setting up the Aztec culture and environment, doing so in a fairly seamless manner given the amount of information to be introduced. The book is smattered throughout with various tidbits about Aztec life, and these glimpses into the culture are fascinating (although given that many of them discuss matters of sacrifice and self-harm, they are also sometimes rather gruesome). There are a few moments, though, where the sheer amount of information the reader needs to digest becomes overwhelming, and unfortunately one of these is the opening of the book. Fortunately, after a bit of initial floundering, it's possible to get into the swing of things, and it only picks up from there.

Demon of the Air opens in media res with main character Yoatl, at his master's behest, helping commoner Handy carry a bathed slave off to his sacrificial death. There are a few issues with the sacrifice, however, the first being that the bathed slave is a rather sorry looking thing, which is most unusual for a sacrificial victim. The second is that the slave is already dead after leapt to his death whilst making a proclamation about 'the big boat''and having a dead victim never bodes especially well for sacrifices.

Unsurprisingly, the deceased status of Yoatl and Handy's sacrifice is found out, and Yoatl is called before none other than the Emperor Montezuma to solve both the mystery of the victim's somewhat untimely death, as well as what the victim was on about when he mentioned the big boat. Montezuma, of course, had been privy to the growing rumours about the arrival of a group of light-skinned men, and is determined to see if these events are related.

Yoatl finds himself swept up in a strange array of events that loop about each other in as fun and as intricate a manner as a three-year-old's first attempt at tying a shoelace. People are double-crossed, then double-knotted (if you'll forgive the extension of the simile), and all sorts of mysterious events, both past and present, come to the fore. Interesting, much of Demon of the Air does not hinge around what is ostensibly the major mystery of the bathed slave's death, but rather around the various events of Yaotl's life that have led to him falling from priestly status to that of a slave. For me, it was this element, as well as some of the highly entertaining dash-and-grab scenes that carried the book.

While it does run a little long in places,'Demon of the Air is a great read that will keep you up all night reading'if only to find out about Aztec fashion and chocolatey delights. I'll definitely be on the lookout for the next in the series.

 Review: Demon of the Air by Simon Levack

Purchase Demon of the Air.

 Review: Demon of the Air by Simon Levack Review: Demon of the Air by Simon Levack Review: Demon of the Air by Simon Levack

Other books by Simon Levack you might like: 'City of Spies; Shadow of the Lords; Tribute of Death

 Review: Demon of the Air by Simon Levack

Forthcoming review: A Brush with Death by Hailey Lind (mystery).

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