Denver Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Club

A Scattering of Jades paperback cover A Scattering of Jades (2002)

2003 Tor paperback
cover art by John Jude Palencar
406 pages (left)

2002 Tor hardcover
428 pages (right)
Scattering of Jades hardback cover

From the paperback back cover:
       The great fire of 1835 burned most of New York City's wooden downtown and, like many others, Archie Prescott thinks he's lost all that's dear to him.  His home is a smoldering ruin and his wife is dead - and next to her body is a child's corpse he assumes was his daughter.  It seems as though it's the end of everything. . .
       But it is only the beginning.  In the midst of ancient magic, murderous conspiracies, and a crafty Meso-american demon-god who is plotting the end of humanity, Archie finds himself with the power to save the world or drown it in sacrificial blood.

From the front flap of the hardback:
       The great fire of 1835 has burned most of New York City's wooden downtown.  Like many people, Archie Prescott thinks he has lost everything.  His home is a smoldering ruin, his dead wife's body at his feet.  And next to her is a child's corpse he assumes was his daughter.  It seems like the end of everything.
       But it is only the beginning.
       Goaded into action by New York Herald publisher James Gordon Bennett, Archie runs afoul of one of P.T. Barnum's former sideshow workers, Riley Steen.  With the help of an ancient book translated by Aaron Burr, Steen has resurrected a chacmool.  This ageless Mesoamerican avatar plans to use the blood of Archie's still-living daughter to bring about the end of humanity.
       Meanwhile, Steven Bishop guides tourists through the Mammoth Cave in Kentucky.  Steven, a slave, wants nothing more than a world where the color of his skin doesn't deny his humanity.  His fateful first meeting with the chacmool leads him to believe that the promise it offers may bring him to such a world.
       In the midst of ancient magic and murderous conspiracies, Archie finds himself with the power to save the world or drown it in sacrificial blood...but first he has to stop mourning his daughter and undertake a grim cross-country journey to save her.

Read for group discussion on April 14, 2004

Amy's summary  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

How we each rated this book
Dan - Amy 8 stack of books 10   Wow! Don't miss it
8-9  Highly recommended
7    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
Cheri - Barb -
Aaron - Cynthia -
Jackie 7 Ron 7
Christine - Deb 4.5
Mike 6.5    

Alexander C. Irvine (1969-    ) (also bylined as Alex Irvine) is a US writer of short stories and novels.

2003 Locus Award for first novel A Scattering of Jades
2003 Crawford Award - IAFA Fantasy Award for A Scattering of Jades
2002 International Horror Guild Award for Best First Novel for A Scattering of Jades

--A Scattering of Jades (2002), his first published novel
--One King, One Soldier (2004), a grail quest
--The Life of Riley (2005), short novel set in near-future
--The Narrows (2005), WWII-era historical fantasy

Books set in universes created by others:
-- Have Robot, Will Travel: The New Isaac Asimov's Robot Mystery (2004)
-- Batman: Inferno (2006), as "Alex Irvine"
-- The Ultimates: Against All Enemies (2007), Marvel Comics superheroes, as "Alex Irvine"

Story collections:
--Unintended Consequences (2003)
--Pictures From An Expedition (2006)

Alexander C. Irvine - Wikipedia
The SF Site Featured Review: A Scattering of Jades
green man review: Alexander C. Irvine, A Scattering of Jades
artist interviews: literature - Alexander C. Irvine - Alexander Irvine interview

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