Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley
I want to see the Mayan ruins. I truly do. This mystery almost takes you there.
Xhól is sculpture, an almost outcast because he survived an illness that left him handicapped. His home, an ancient Mayan city, is recovering not only from the illness but also war with neighbors, and so darkness hangs over the city. This darkness only grows worse when a warrior is killed in a mysterious way.
Xhól finds himself caught up in the mystery and his status changing somewhat, just as his relationship to his once childhood friend changes because of the war.
Merchant of Death is a framed tale, for it purports to be a “discovery” of a story. While the setting seems at once step removed from the reader, as if the page is a veil that can’t quite be removed. Yet for all that, there is a sense of being. This is because of the terms Chabot uses. It might be read in English (at least in this translated form), but enough favor in the use of terms makes the village live, if not in terms of setting that a reader can be a part of, but in terms of a reader being able to listen to the city.
The mystery and its solution are well planned and interesting. There are enough conflicting and possible leads to work but not make the solution appear to be “ha ha got you”. Along with the mystery there are a political power plays and discussions. These mostly concern the wife and eldest children of the ruler, and allows for a plot centered on women to balance the mystery being solved by two men.
As first in the series, not all loose ends, in terms of supporting characters, are tied up. This is particularly true of the political games going on. There is a satisfactory bow, and it isn’t a cliffhanger type of a thing.
A good start to a series.