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Author via I think [profile] bookelfe?

This is fascinating, because it's a very classical adventure plot, in which the protagonist runs around the jungles of Guatemala looking for a fabled and fabulously antique artifact called the Queen Jade, which has been sought after and described by various conquistadors, archaeologists, dilettantes, and probably Indiana Jones. Well, actually the protagonist is looking for her mother, who is an archaeologist who has disappeared while looking for the Queen Jade-- a disastrous hurricane swept through her last known location.

But the way this plot, with all its ciphers, cryptography, machete-whacking through jungle, and so on, is handled is not classical adventure story at all in several directions. For one thing, Guatemala had thirty years of civil war ending in 1996, and this comes up and is addressed: the army are dangerous, the wounds are deep, the country has been devastated, and a lot of people have pasts on one side or another that they don't want to talk about. For another thing, the protagonist is Mexican-American, and her traveling companion is from Guatemala but moved to the U.S. at a young age and became a university professor, and there are actual ramifications to this because despite fluent Spanish and skin tone these backgrounds in that country make them norteamericanos. (The companion keeps protesting that he's from here, to which the response is pretty much 'so where were you during the war?')

And this is a book which has a romance (not a terrible one, but eh, whatever) but which is centered mostly around competent women being competent. So that's a good thing.

There're a lot of folktales, diary entries from the sixteenth century, folksongs and whatnot, of the sort people make up for stories like this, and they are a lot of fun, especially since people indulge in linguistic speculation about them, which is always my cup of tea.

The major problem I had is that the story took about a hundred pages to stop being setup and do things, and they were not the most interesting hundred pages ever. It was obviously setup for something, but I think it could and should have moved faster. That is one third of the entire book during which I was bored while waiting for the other shoe to drop. And the prose is workmanlike, which means that it by itself was not enough to entertain me while I waited, especially since one of the things on which I was waiting was for there to be enough character development for me to care about these people and this plot. The other shoe did drop, eventually, and I cared enough about these people and this plot to enjoy the resolution, but seriously, needs faster pacing. This kind of adventure novel traditionally has a snappy opening setpiece and there are, in fact, reasons why.

So my impression overall is that it is a vast improvement most of the way around on lots and lots of similar things in its genre, but that that brought it to the level of a decent, enjoyable, non-brilliant beach book. I hear there is a sequel. Maybe, since it does not have to do so much work at the beginning, it will get to the parts I liked faster.

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