Servant of the Underworld


  • Media: #Books #Books 2020
    • Author: Aliette de Bodard
    • Status: read
    • Date: 2020-07-18
    • Tags: #fantasy #aztec #mystery #mythology #kindleunlimited
    • Rating: ★★★☆☆
    • Idea richness: ★★★★☆
    • Links: Goodreads, Highlights



An aztec noir that couldn't make up it's mind between murder mystery and high fantasy god-slaying. The inbetween nature instead left it a bit of a mess, with a mystery that was never meant to be solved but rather slowly revealed and a final battle that didn't feel as world-shattering as it should have. Brilliant concept, just fell short in the execution.


Absolutely amazing concept. Aztec murder mystery? Sign me up! Even the icky blood magic felt spot on. Alas, it ended up stuck in the middle, with the first 2/3 being a too slow murder investigation and the final 1/3 being a mad, apocalyptic-level scramble for survival jumping between worlds. Either could have have been amazing: ditch the awkward, first person narrative for a hardboiled aztec noir, dwelling on the bloody magic and politics. Or go all in and stop pretending there is a mystery to solve and focus on god-level action and heroics.

It did not help that especially in the first half, the names and politics were difficult to get a grasp on so many encounters did not feel as high stakes as they should. Instead the main tension seemed to come from everyone the main character talked to hating his guts... though by the time he was moaning about his father for the hundredth time I was beginning to understand their feelings.

Scrapbook Concepts

  • Slashing earlobes for blood spell #magic
  • Broken spells leave a link to the underworld. #magic "...a miasma that would only grow thicker as time passed, darkening the shrine, the pyramid it sat upon, and the entire temple complex." A dungeon. Need to finish spell to escape? #locations #adventures
  • The House of Tears #locations
  • The Flower Prince #characters
  • The minor gods of Mictlan: the Wind of Knives, the Owl Archer, the Faded Warrior. #creatures
  • "A jade heart to find the eater of hearts" A heart used as a divining rod to track beast. Feel it beat in hands when going the right direction. #magic
  • The Floating Garden #locations
  • Tlalocan, the Land of the Blessed Drowned. #setting
  • High Priest for the Dead, charged with investigating murders #characters
  • Huitzilpochtli, Goddess descended to earth living in secret manor and longing for proper sacrifice #characters
  • Mixcoatl, the Cloud Serpent. #creatures