Denver Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Club
A Scattering of Jades (2002)
2003 Tor paperback
cover art by John Jude Palencar
406 pages (left)
2002 Tor hardcover
428 pages (right)
Alexander C. Irvine - A Scattering of Jades
In A Scattering of Jades, Mesoamerican (Aztec, Mayan, Toltec) myths and gods figure in strange and horrific events in the eastern United States. Supposedly, there are codices that reveal how occult powers can be gained at a certain cycle of years. Aaron Burr and his co-conspirators sought this power and failed. In 1843, Riley Steen, a co-conspirator of Burr and sorcerer who travels in a painted Wagon, schemes again, and hopes to make himself a commanding figure from Mexico to Canada. Fortunately, things don't quite go as Steen intended.
Riley Steen has midwife Lupita kidnap toddler Jane Prescott, who had the misfortune to be born on a day and time special to the god Tlaloc, He Who Makes Things Grow. Lupita releases fiery spirits to mark Jane, and accidentally alerts other powers and burns down part of New York City. Jane's mother dies in the fire.
Archie Prescott, Jane's father, a pressman and would be reporter for the Herald, is devastated by the death of his wife and wrongly believes that his daughter is also dead. He wallows in grief. Years later, Jane, a scarred street urchin who somehow escaped from Steen, tells Archie that she's his daughter and but he doesn't believe her.
Meanwhile, black slave Stephen Bishop, a guide and explorer of Mammoth Cave in Kentucky, discovers a weirdly carved underground room and an Indian mummy wearing a feathered cloak. Riley Steen has been seeking this mummy, the chacmool, and buys it and takes it to New York City.
Archie Prescott is tipped that something interesting will happen near Tammany Hall at midnight. Hoping for a news story, he goes and crosses paths with Steen and his Irish Dead Rabbits goons, and escapes into P.T. Barnum's American Museum. Unfortunately for Archie, the chacmool mummy is displayed in the museum, and this is the night it's scheduled to reanimate. The chacmool brutally kills the museum's night watchman. Archie is spared because he has a kitchen knife marked by a rival god, The Old One. Steen and his goons are unable to capture the chacmool, because it's more powerful than expected, and they beat Archie to within an inch of his life. Archie somehow retains a piece of the chacmool's feathery cloak, and it becomes a talisman which he can't rid himself of.
The chacmool heads west to return to Mammoth Cave. Archie follows the chacmool hoping to free himself from the chacmool talisman's maddening influence. Unbeknownst to him, Jane follows him. Steen correctly figures that Jane will try to follow her father, and the Dead Rabbits goons recapture her.
Jane is to be a sacrificed on the alter in the mummy room in Mammoth Cave. Usually feisty Jane is apparently charmed by the chacmool, and heads in a daze towards this horrible fate. Once Archie realizes that Jane is truly his daughter he is determined to do anything to rescue her. Archie faces many dangers on the way west, but gets help from some truly unlikely sources, such as bear channeling the Indian sage Tamanend, a babbling zombie with a bone to pick with Steen, and even Steen himself. Cave explorer Stephen sides with the chacmool for his own reasons, and gets Archie lost in Mammoth Cave. Archie must save Jane, and prevent the ceremony which would bring forth the Mesoamerican new world of the Fifth Sun.summary written by
10 Wow! Don't miss it
8-9 Highly recommended
5-6 Mild recommendation
3-4 Take your chances
1-2 Below average; skip it
0 Get out the flamethrower!
U Unfinishable or unreadable
- Skipped or no rating given