26 March 2010

Jaguar Warrior

by Sandy Fussell

Walker Books. Australian, Junior, Young Adult. Paperback rrp $14.95

Guest Reviewer Jo Burnell

Glowing Eyes in a grey stone mask lure me into the pages of Jaguar Warrior. I am trapped in a windowless box, waiting with Atl, a slave in the Serpent Sun God’s temple. Atl helped build this wooden prison and now waits his turn on the sacrificial altar. He knows his arms and legs will be held down while his heart, still beating is ripped out of his body.

Is it an honour to be sacrificed so the sun will rise each new day? Atl doesn’t think so and neither do I. This level of gory detail usually puts me off, but Sandy Fussell has a way of melding humour, fast-paced action and fun with the bloody bits in such a way that I’m hooked.

Jaguar Warrior goes even further, bringing Tenochtitlan and the Ancient Aztec world to life. The Serpent Sun god’s temple structure and surrounds are realistic and based on what historians have discovered about this forgotten culture, but there’s nothing dry about Atl’s story. Dilemmas and discoveries keep him moving, even when he’d rather rest. Would you obey your captor’s order to save others or just run for your life when you taste freedom?

Jaguar Warrior is not only about Atl. Citlali reveals what a girl might have faced in these times if her mother had died, while the Captain lives and breathes ruthless determination. Zolan, the merchant’s slave shares his own story of learning, while Dog has a special role to play.

Who would you trust? Things are not always as they seem. Villains have a habit of transforming into the unexpected in Sandy Fussell’s tales and Jaguar Warrior is no exception.


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