The Goldsmith’s Daughter

Written by Tanya Landman
Review by Eileen Charbonneau

This young adult novel follows 15-year old Itacate through a life at the heart of the Aztec Empire on the cusp of change at the time of Spanish contact. At the births of Itacate and her twin brother a very different fate for each is foretold: that her brother would “honor the gods and bring fame to his family,” while Itacate was deemed worthless and destined “to bring ill-fortune to all those closest.”

After a childhood bonded to her nurse and beloved brother, Itacate comes of age realizing that she has no gift for acceptable woman’s arts, but is drawn to her father’s craft, forbidden to women. She becomes her father’s hidden apprentice and soon is brought to the court of Montezuma himself. Her brother chooses his fated role as a sacrificial victim after a year of enjoying the court’s splendor. But it is the year of the arrival of Cortez, and will be like no other for the entire empire.

When Cortez and his entourage arrive, Itacate meets and falls in love with a Spanish soldier and interpreter sent to oversee her latest commission, a Madonna and child cast in gold. Their star-crossed love endures through warfare, disease, and the beginnings of the end of a civilization.

In Landman’s capable hands this strange world ruled by portent, prophecy and its priesthood is made human through her protagonist and the bonds she forms despite crippling strictures. Highly recommended.