Genre: Historical fiction
Goodreads Rating: 3.86 / 5
My Rating: 4 / 5
Malinali, a high-born Mexica heiress, was sold into slavery as a child and it was as a slave of the Maya that she met the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés. To her and many of the Mexica, Cortés, with his pale skin, was Feathered Serpent, the god whose return to earth foretold the end of Montezuma’s fabled empire.
The daughter of a prophet, Malinali knew her fate lay with Feathered Serpent and his invaders. To this day she is reviled as a traitor by Mexico’s native people, but is also honored as a heroine and symbolic mother of a mixed-race nation.
This is her story—and the story of the Spanish conquest of Mexico, which for better or worse changed the Americas forever.
Malinali is gifted to the Spaniards early in their expedition and through her intelligence and knowledge of languages manages to rise her position from a slave girl to Corté’s interpreter and mistress. Her belief that she is destined for more than being just a warrior’s wife and the story of the Feathered Serpent told by her beloved father prove instrumental in turning her alliance to Cortés and his cause.
Hernán Cortés came to America with a single goal in mind, to become rich. His leadership qualities and diplomatic approach set him apart as a strong and capable leader who represents his country and king in the most efficient of ways.
All of the other characters are equally complex and grow as the story unfolds. I especially liked how Benites, one of Cortés’s soldiers, matured over his war experience and became a more self-reliant person.
The novel’s primary theme is the difference between the Christian world and that of the Native Mexicans in terms of morality and how a person ought to present themselves.
Racism plays a significant role in the interactions between the Spaniards with the natives as well as with Norte, a Spaniard who abandoned his Christian faith and married a native woman. It stems from close-mindness and the inability to respect that which is different from one’s own perspective.
Spirituality is important in both Christian and Native Mexican religions but is implemented in an entirely opposite way.
Last but not least, adultery is a factor which complicates the relationship between three of the characters and leads them into actions that affect their well-being.
Feathered Serpent was the first historical novel that I read as a college student and it holds a special place in my heart. It is extremely well written and the characters make you feel so many raw emotions all at once. But what makes it truly memorable is the fact that Colin Falconer based it on a true story and changed little to nothing.