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Servant of the Underworld (Obsidian and Blood, #1)
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Servant of the Underworld (Obsidian and Blood #1)

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3.77 of 5 stars 3.77  ·  rating details  ·  574 ratings  ·  119 reviews
Year One-Knife, Tenochtitlan the capital of the Aztecs. The end of the world is kept at bay only by the magic of human sacrifice. A Priestess disappears from an empty room drenched in blood. Acatl, High Priest, must find her, or break the boundaries between the worlds of the living and the dead.
Mass Market Paperback, 432 pages
Published October 26th 2010 by Angry Robot (first published January 1st 2010)
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(showing 1-30 of 2,218)
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Carol.
Mar 27, 2015 Carol. rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: fans of genre-bender fantasy
Looking for something besides medieval European-based fantasy? Too many werewolves just looking for love in your reading? Tired of airships and clockworks? (Note: I’m not even bringing up the zombie references, but yes, you can have too much of the walking dead). Aliette de Bodard’s trilogy Obsidian and Blood might just be the solution to the fantasy reader looking to genre-bend. The first book, Servant of the Underworld, is a fascinating stand-alone book, so don’t let commitment issues prevent ...more
Vinaya
Chalchiutlicue. Say that quickly ten times, without stumbling!

I didn't read any reviews for Servant of the Underworld before I started. I think this is a good thing, because the label 'speculative fiction' tends to put me off, more often than not. Speculative fiction, that bastard child straddling the fence between literary fiction and genre fantasy, has pretensions of grandeur that tend to overwhelm the actual talent of the writer. That Aliette de Bodard knows her subject inside out is a given.
...more
Stefan
Servant of the Underworld by Writers of the Future winner Aliette de Bodard is an interesting and, especially for a debut, well-executed cross-genre novel that successfully combines several disparate elements into an original story.

If ever a novel could be called cross-genre, Servant of the Underworld is it: the story is set in the 15th century Aztec empire (1. historical fiction) but magic and gods are real (2. fantasy). When a priestess is murdered, Acatl, the High Priest of the Dead, gets inv
...more
Liviu
I finished Servant of the Underworld the highly awaited novel debut of A. De Bodard and it's taking place in an Aztec state at some point in history - the afterword or more detailed knowledge of Aztec history indicates the date - there is magic of many kinds, intrigue, priests, warriors, "femme fatales" and a mystery of sorts through which we explore this wonderful universe.

A first person narration by a semi-disillusioned "priest of the dead" and servant of the "duality" - which essentially mean
...more
Nikki
I really wasn't sure about reading this. I read some of Aliette de Bodard's shorter fiction and wasn't very interested, and there's so much potential for creepy awful judginess -- or equally as bad, preachiness -- when it comes to a novel based on something like the Aztec/Mayan/Incan/Toltec world. Especially when the writer brings an essentially modern form of story to meld with it (in this case, detective/mystery). There's the danger of making your POV character too much the modern man, or wall ...more
Jason
4 Stars

Servant of the Underworld is a good fantasy and a fun start to a new series. It fails to receive full marks from me as I loathed the character names and places. They were ridiculous to me and it doesn't even matter to me if they were fitting to the time period fiction.

There are some exceptional aspects to this novel. Aliette de Bodard has created a fictional world that feels more like a non-fiction history piece. I loved the world building, the exotic setting, and the blood magic. The ch
...more
Matt Brady
Acatl, high priest of the God of Death for the Mexica Empire (the civilization we know as the Azteks) is tasked with investigating the mysterious disappearance of a priestess, a case with a personal element for the priest as his warrior brother is the prime suspect. What starts as a mystery becomes something very different as Acatl uncovers secrets that threaten the entire empire and, maybe, the world.

There's a very big fantasy element to this story, one I wasn't expecting. Basically, the gods a
...more
ambyr
Two stars for the worldbuilding, which kept me reading despite feelings for the main character that wavered between apathy and antipathy. de Bodard's descriptions of the social and political arrangements of the Aztec Empire are really interesting. I wish the magic had been equally interesting, but alas it seems rather D&Dish, all shields and mage sight and magic bolts (albeit fueled by blood). I would have preferred something more numinous.

Part of my frustration was that I went into this exp
...more
⊱ Irena ⊰
Possible spoilers
***************
The balance between the Underworld, the Fifth World and the Heaven is maintained with blood magic. Blood sacrifices are commonplace here . Not unexpected considering the Aztecs were known for sacrificing people.

"Nothing was as precious as blood; and the most precious thing of all was the heart, which gathered all the blood and distributed it around the body."

Acatl is a reluctant High Priest of the Dead and a narrator of this story. He was summoned by Ceyaxochi
...more
Rebecca
There are quite a few urban fantasy mysteries and historical mysteries--this blends the two.

Acatl is a reluctant High Priest--he doesn't like politics, he's not very self-confident, and he has a severe case of imposter syndrome. The poor guy muddles along as best he can. He's perfectly at home with dealing with shadow beasts and other monsters from the underworld--it's people that give him trouble.

The mystery that he gets entangled in has quite a bit of personal tragedy for him. There are the u
...more
Laura
DNF. Sorry.

Strike one:

"The hunger in his eyes was palpable"

Unless you usually gauge mood by poking people in the eye then no, it wasn't. Also when I tweeted it I had several people assume I was reading crappy erotica. That is not a good sign.

Strike two:

"Oh," giggled another poorly-developed female character, "politics! I'm so glad I'm a woman and don't have to think about that."

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Strike three:

Actually, there was no specific strike three. I just realised that I didn't care any more. I
...more
Megan
I wanted to like this book. Really, I did. It sounds so cool, an Aztec murder mystery? Lots of magic and religion? Unfortunately I had to call it quits on page 75 of 407.

Aliette De Bodard appears to really know her stuff, maybe a little too well. From page one, I was bombarded with info, rituals, background and names such as Mictlan, Actal-tzin, Ichtaca, Ceyaxochitl, Yaotl, Neutemoc, Xochiquetzal, Eleuia, Axayacatl-tzin... Foreign ideas, religion, culture is all cool, but I never felt as if ther
...more
Barbara
I bought this on a whim. It combines two of my favorite genres - fantasy and mystery so I was tempted as soon as I read the blurb. Then the publisher, Angry Robots, was having a sale so it only cost me a little over $3. It was well worth it and then some. A very polished effort for a debut novel.

I thought the plotting was well done, as was the characterisation, and I found the depiction of Aztec culture fascinating.

I don't rate it higher than 3 stars because it did has some clunky bits. The main
...more
Karlo
This was fun. The worldbuilding seemed first rate (I don't have any practical knowledge of 1500s Aztec culture) and the relationships between the characters were engaging; particularly between the two brothers and their sister.

I did find that some of the plot was a little transparent, but not so much as to spoil the book.

What made this particularly interesting to me was that this didn't seem like a fantasy story at all; it was more of a mystery in a foreign culture or land. If you're looking fo
...more
Anne Lyle
One of my favourite genres outside fantasy is historical crime, so a series that combines both is an irresistible lure to me. I was very glad, therefore, to come across de Bodard's Obsidian and Blood series, set in the pre-Columbian Aztec Empire.

Disclaimer: Aliette and I share both a publisher and an agent. I take this, not so much as bias, as an indication that our tastes are similar and attract a similar audience. It should not surprise anyone, therefore, if I enjoyed this book!

Servant of the
...more
Milena Benini
Aliette de Bodard is an interesting person, and a source of good recipes. Really. Her book is also interesting, but I wouldn't recommend looking for recipes to translate into everyday usage in it. It's a mystery set in a magical version of the Mexica empire, in which, miraculously, all three elements -- the mystery, the magic and the history -- keep the balance. At the same time, her characters are convincing and humane, and the story itself, which evolves from a "small" and "private" mystery to ...more
Liz
This series was one of the books on my unofficial "to read" list since right around when exam period began. I'd discovered Aliette de Bodard through her short fiction (her recent novella won the Nebula this year) and, even there, her ability to convey a sense of place and world in her fiction is mesmerizing. She has a sense for what the reader needs to make people-as-members-of-a-culture seem real and she gives her characters a history. One of the things I look for in fantasy is a sense that the ...more
Ian
I felt thoroughly immersed in the Aztec world. The characters experience magic and gods as elements of the natural world. The main plot driver is the investigation of a murder. The narrator, Acatl, takes on the assignment reluctantly, just as he has reluctantly accepted his recent appointment as High Priest of the Dead. His estranged brother is the likely suspect, and while Acatl is convinced of his innocence, palace politics demand the brother's swift condemnation.

Aliette de Bodard manages to m
...more
Lawrence Kapture
Servant of the Underworld, by Aliette de Bodard, is a noir murder mystery set in Aztec governed Central America. Acatl, a priest of the god of the dead, is tasked to investigate the abduction of a priestess whom his brother might have been having an affair with. The abduction was performed with bloody magic. So is the investigation: every time Acatl casts a spell, he must fuel it with the blood of whatever or whomever is nearby, often his own. The investigation leads to a plot amongst the priest ...more
Phoenixfalls
Angry Robot provides cheeky but helpful classifications on the jackets of their books; on this one, they says: "File Under: Fantasy / Aztec Mystery / Locked Room / Human Sacrifice / The Dead Walk!" Now how on earth could I resist that? As it turns out, I am very happy I didn't resist it, because within I found a very strong debut, one equal parts detective, historical, and epic fantasy novel.

The detective component was extremely satisfying. As is traditional, Acatl has a sort of semi-formal stan
...more
Mia
Likely 3.5 stars.

This is a historical fantasy thriller refreshingly set in a non-Eurocentric world. Behold Tenochtitlan, capital of the Mexica empire, land of the Aztecs. If, like me, you have a fascination with Aztec, Mayan and Incan culture, then you will likely enjoy this book. It is a world full of the strange and the exotic, where religion rules the lives of aristocracy and masses alike. Gods roam the earth and expect constant prayer, sacrifice and adulation from their subjects.

The story is
...more
Sonia Lal
This book is pretty damn good. A lot better than I expected. I have to admit, I read the blurb and decided it couldn’t be interesting. I mean, the whole Aztec blood magic thing. I wasn’t into it.

But it’s really good. I stayed up too late to read this and I really like it. The end is perfect. I did not see it coming, but at the same time, it makes perfect sense. Really. Just the kind of ending I like best.

I have to admit, I wasn’t too crazy about the book when I first heard about it. The idea of
...more
Jayaprakash Satyamurthy
I'm giving this three stars because I'm a sucker for historical mysteries. Add some weird magics and monstrous creatures and I'm pretty much hooked.

But!

de Bodard's prose, so evocative in the short fiction I've read, is merely serviceable at best, bland and predictable at worst. Certain verbs are used far more than they should be. Angry people always 'grimace', always 'snap' when they speak. That sort of thing. It's pretty clear that the narrator's lack of self esteem is in direct proportion to
...more
Rob
I recently read de Bodard's story The Lost Xuyan Bride in The Apex Book of World SF and found it one of the highlights of the collection (if you are interested, it can be read on the author's website. One of the things I liked about it was the use of two non-Western cultures in this alternative history/detective story. Normally I am a bit more cautious but based on that story I decided to give her début novel Servant of the Underworld, the first novel in the Obsidian and Blood series a go. I was ...more
Edward Butler
Not a perfect book, but so original as to be important, nevertheless. Genuine originality in fantasy settings is hard to find, and even more rare are novels that treat of the Aztec world on its own terms, without, in effect, just setting them up for the Spanish conquest. A seamless fusion of historical mystery and high fantasy, Servant of the Underworld also manages to be, first and foremost, the story of a priest finding his vocation. Takes a while to get going, but worth the perseverance. The ...more
Tamara
A fantasy-murder mystery set in the Aztec empire. It was ok, but felt a bit disjointed and rushed. I would actually have appreciated an info dump here and there. There turned out to be a bit of historical/cultural/political background explanation as an appendix, but it was rather too late by then. Its also of the super magic saturated type of fantasy, which isn't usually my favorite type. I did like the main character though, even if he did remain a bit flat, and the setting was honestly refresh ...more
Glaiza
I have the haziest recollection of studying Aztec mythology in high school but no-one needs to be familiar with the fragmented mythology to dive into this world. Aliette de Bodard makes a smooth transition into another society through Acatl's eyes - introducing a vivid world of magic, fickle gods and multifaceted characters embroiled in a mystery. The murder-mystery plot and the individual flaws of the characters reeled me into this story. I loved how the story also explored loyalty and the indi ...more
Jason Kristopher
All things considered, not a great blurb, and definitely one that doesn't do this title justice. Overall, it was by far one of the most interesting mysteries I've read, and I was intrigued from page 1 by the culture as shown in the book.

I picked the book up as a freebie at WorldCon 2013 in San Antonio, TX, along with a couple others that I've still got sitting in a stack. I'm not sure if the publisher was just trying to get rid of extra copies — since the book came out in the US in 2010 — or if
...more
Rrain
I can't quite pinpoint why, but I kept reverting to thinking that the narrator was female (despite being told very plainly that he was not). This doesn't have any bearing on whether I did or did not enjoy the book (I did), but I'd be interested to pick this notion apart and figure out what narrative clues I was reading as female and why. I'm not sure I'm going to like what it says about me and my assumptions (or more to the point, what it says about the society I live in and its assumptions), bu ...more
Tasula
This was a refreshing change of pace- a murder mystery set in the ancient Aztec world, with a lot of magic and old gods creating strife. The lead character (the High Priest of the Dead - thus Servant of the Underworld) is quite likeable, and the story line interesting. The only thing I didn't like was all the blood sacrifices that were needed to fuel the magic. Poor little animals. Otherwise, really good.
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I am a speculative fiction author living in Paris, with a strong taste for history and mythology. Rice addict, tea addict and nước mắm addict.
My short fiction has appeared in various professional venues, and my Aztec fantasy series "Obsidian and Blood", Servant of the Underworld, is published by Angry Robot.
My next novel, set in a Paris ruined after the Great Magicians' War, features Fallen ange
...more
More about Aliette de Bodard...

Other Books in the Series

Obsidian and Blood (3 books)
  • Harbinger of the Storm (Obsidian and Blood, #2)
  • Master of the House of Darts (Obsidian and Blood, #3)
On a Red Station, Drifting Harbinger of the Storm (Obsidian and Blood, #2) The Waiting Stars Master of the House of Darts (Obsidian and Blood, #3) Immersion

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“You leave behind your fine poems.
You leave behind your beautiful flowers. And the earth that was only leant to you. You ascend into the Light, O Quechomitl, you leave behind the flowers and the singing and the earth. Safe journey, O friend.”
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“I still couldn’t banish the image of the Quetzal Flower. In my mind, it merged with that of Priestess Eleuia: everything a man could desire or aspire to, a woman who would suck the marrow from your bones and still leave you smiling.” 2 likes
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