Gary Jennings’ Aztec Revenge

Written by Robert Gleason and Junius Podrug
Review by Ann Chamberlin

Gleason and Podrug continue the late Gary Jennings’ popular Aztec series, bringing it up to the early 19th century, the Peninsular War in Spain and the rousing of the long-suppressed rage of the Aztecs to join Father Hidalgo’s revolt in Mexico. When we first meet our hero, Don Juan de Zavala, he is a dashing caballero interested (we are told frequently) only in horses and women and in lording it over the peons his noble Spanish blood lets him wipe his feet on. One evening, he asks his uncle to buy him a title so he may marry the lovely Doña Isabella, and his fate is sealed. His uncle balks – then drinks poisoned wine meant for our hero. Uncle Bruto doesn’t die without first revealing that Don Juan’s blood is not pure Spanish at all. He is the son of a whore raised to replace the inheriting nephew who died. So now not only has our hero become one of the native blood he so despised, he is also accused of murder.

After this point, the tale, which had been galloping along, runs into thick patches of travelogue mire and every sort of distancing distraction. Don Juan must flee to Spain, where against his better selfish judgment he helps win freedom for the peninsula from Napoleon’s armies, all the while taking two or three putas a night as well as servicing the historical Doña Marina, who fought alongside the valiant Hidalgo for freedom in the colony on this continent. It is a very masculine tale, dripping machismo, which should please fans of the series.