The Goldsmith’s Daughter by Tanya Landman
Itacate was born just before dawn and her mother died giving birth to her. Although her twin brother, born minutes later, survived, Itacate was determined to be cursed and the prophecy indicated that she would lead her whole family to destruction. However, she survives and even convinces her father to allow her to assist him in the workshop. Her real talent for the craft is revealed and attracts the attention of Montezuma himself, bringing her whole family into danger.
A few months ago I reviewed a book for adults that was set in this same period of history, so I was interested in how the author would portray a very violent and bloody time in a format that would prove acceptable for children and young adults. By revealing the culture through the eyes of a young woman who truly believed that the sun would not rise if blood was not shed before dawn. When her brother was chosen for the annual sacrifice, Itacate is torn between pride that he was considered worthy of ensuring their city’s survival for another year and grief at the death of her twin. I believe this is a very realistic portrayal of the family response to this practice.
I did have a problem with the ‘romance’ in the story. The whole idea that an Aztec girl would encounter a Spanish soldier is hard to accept, but that he would leave his life and escape with her to the jungle is incredible. How on earth would either of them survive? A girl born and raised in a middle class city neighborhood and a foreign soldier very obviously from the unpopular invaders?