||Jan 2, 2012
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At Road's End is historical novel that deals with the fall of Anasazi but from an outsider's point of view.
He was a warrior from the distant Mexican lands, escorting a group of traders.
He did not want to follow the ancient road into the Southwestern desert; but he had no choice.
When he rescues a girl from the ransacked village, he thinks nothing of it. He just wishes the traders would sell their goods in a hurry, so he can return to his homeland.
But the fate had planned differently, for the warrior and for the girl alike
A group of men made its way wearily amidst the clouds of dust. Sweat ran down their faces, painting them as though for some sort of ritual, and their hair was tied high. From time to time they would shift their heavy bundles and trudge on, along the sunlit vastness.
They traveled that road for a few days, and had grown accustomed to its capricious turns, to the suddenly widening and then again narrowing parts. It was never deterred by an occasional cliff, not bothering to detour it, but cutting its way through the obstacle, relentless and determined. Like an enormous serpent, although a sensible reptile would make its way twisting warily, carefully, intermingling with its surroundings.
The man in the lead slowed his pace, and the rest of the group halted obediently.
"You better climb one of those cliffs, see what's next," he addressed a tall man, who followed at some distance, not burdened by packages.
"To see what? More desert?"
Not only lack of bundles set the tall man apart. He wore none of the bright cotton garb of his companions, but was clad in a plain loincloth and a cloak, his richly embroidered girdle burdened by a heavy obsidian sword, his palm never far away from the carved wooden handle. As he glared at the leader of the group, a barely hidden disdain flickered in the depths of the dark, well-spaced eyes.
"To see what this desert holds for us. To see where this road is heading," answered the leading man patiently, meeting the heavily lidded gaze. His eyes narrowed. "To make sure no locals are tempted to take a closer look into our goods; or some such foolishness. To attend your duties."
The air hissed loudly from the widening nostrils of the armed man, but he said nothing. The effort of holding onto his temper showed in the way he ground his teeth. The rest of the group shifted uneasily, crowded under the shadow of the nearby cliff.
Finally, the warrior shrugged. "If you are planning to pitch a camp here, I'll go up and watch for the non-existent locals. Although walking this desert is like traveling through the Void. Such endless, borderless emptiness! I don't know what you are looking for, but this idea of following the road is ridiculous. I'm sure the masters of your guild will not be pleased at this waste of time and energy." The last of the tirade bounced off the cliff's wall as the warrior’s back disappeared up the invisible path.
"Damn warriors!" murmured someone, while the traders placed their bundles in the shadow, careful not to damage the precious cargo.
"Like having a wild animal walking along, not knowing if it'll protect or attack you," agreed another, keeping his voice low. "Why did we have to bring him along? Aren't we skilled enough to fight off any of the savages? It's not like we were going into the lands of the Big Headed Mayans."
"This one is well under control," said the leader absently. He watched the desert, shadowy in the thickening twilight. "This road is puzzling me. It's too invested, too well-built and maintained to lead us nowhere." His frown deepened. "Why has it not brought us anywhere yet?"
What a unique story
This book really transported me to another time. I really like it when stories can make me feel like I'm living in a completely different world.
I enjoyed the realism, the fact that Tecpatl had flaws ( and quite an ego! :) ) and Sakuna stayed strong in her beliefs, yet they still couldn't resist each other and found a way to bridge the gap. I enjoyed both characters, how they struggled to understand each other, and how love helped Tecpatl open his eyes. The story is filled with action, astounding descriptions of the desert that draws you deeper in, and yes, romance!
The way the author wove the entire culture and history into the story made it a compelling read. I had no clue what was going to happen next, and for me that is what makes a really good book. I'm on my way to read the next one. Definitely recommend.
Outsider As A Witness To A Time of Transition
Years ago during a family trip to Arizona, I had an opportunity to visit some ruins associated with the ancient cliff-dwelling native Anasazi peoples of the southwest. Though the ruins had been abandoned for centuries, these artifacts of the once-thriving culture made me curious about these people and their lives. In At Road's End, Zoe Saadia explores the intersection of this culture with other regional powers. After reading it, I feel that I have better insight into how the ancient peoples of the Southwest lived. I think, in the end, that's one of the best things a piece of historical fiction can accomplish.
The plot moves along at a comfortable pace. There's a good interspersing of more leisurely character development scenes, action, and even a bit of romance. Though the plot is focused on a small number of characters, it serves as a microcosm of some of the major trends affecting the Natives of the Southwest. The book expertly illuminates the complex nature of their societies and, to a lesser extent, their neighbors to the south.
The use of an outsider main character, a warrior escorting traders, allows an exploration of the historical culture in a natural way. The author's respect for the material and her research is obvious in her attention to both major and minor details. The depth of historical information never becomes overwhelming, nor does it come off as didactic. Given how often a lack of restraint can undermine historical fiction works, I was rather pleased at how well the author managed this.
The arrogance of the main character, though expected given his background, makes him not the most immediately likable lead, but he's intriguing and does have a solid character arc. The relative depth of character development on the other characters is not as strong, but all major secondary characters still come as realistic and not mere plot props.
Already looking forward to the sequel!
Like her main character's skill with a sword, author Zoe Saadia deftly handles the historical romance genre in At Road's End. One of my complaints with some historical romances is the heavy handed use of setting that reads like a history text. This is definitely not the case with At Road's End. Though Ms. Saadia obviously knows her subject, she puts you in the time and setting without feeling the need to demonstrate that knowledge with scholarly passages. Instead, she skillfully weaves her descriptions into the action of the story, putting you right there with her excellent characters. Her characters have depth, emotion, conflict and are realistic enough to have a good love/hate relation with. And from her descriptions of the action/warfare scenes, speak nicely to her if you meet her with a sword - I suspect she knows how to use it! You will enjoy this novel and, like me, will be looking forward to her promised sequel.
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