Hernan Cortez arrived and conquered the Aztec empire, treating former rulers as slaves and workhorses. Now in 1569, Juan the Lepero, a lower class indio, awaits his death by hanging for horse stealing. As his captors argue over whether he should be given the Last Rites, he thinks upon his past, beginning in 1556 in Oaxaca, where he is a starving beggar lepero. Managing to catch the attention of the great Cortez’s son, he is hired as a stable hand. His criminal activities progress from murderer (actually via self-defense) to horse dealer and on and on, constantly having to “look backward’ as he fears exposure for the fraud he is. El Mestizo, Cortez’s son, tells Juan that he is protected from capture because of his divine mission to “avenge a wrong” – a mysterious familial wrong creates the plot for most of the book.
Podrug, who took up the “Aztec” cause after Jennings’ death some years back, continues to bring the history and culture of the Aztec, mestizo, and indio peoples to life. The book is interestingly done with plenty of adventure that reads like a “western” style of historical fiction. Nicely done!