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The Highlander

(The Rise of the Aztecs #1)

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  817 ratings  ·  118 reviews
Born in the Highlands, Kuini thought his life was simple. You hunt and you fight, defending your towns against the raids of the Lowlanders and then raiding their lands in turn. His father was the Warriors’ Leader, and he wanted to be just like him.

Yet, Texcoco, the mighty Capital of the Lowlands, seemed incredibly beautiful, sparkling, its pyramids magnificent. A friendshi
Kindle Edition, 200 pages
Published September 17th 2012 by Amazon Digital Services (first published September 16th 2012)
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Zoe Saadia Thank you for your interest :-)

This book and the following sequels in "The Rise of the Aztecs" series are set the 15th century Mesoamerica, Central…more
Thank you for your interest :-)

This book and the following sequels in "The Rise of the Aztecs" series are set the 15th century Mesoamerica, Central Mexico, to be precise :-)
(between 1415 and 1426 when the Triple Alliance, or the Aztec Empire as it's more popularly known, became firmly established)(less)
Zoe Saadia Hi Mora,

Thank you for your interest in this novel.
It's hard to tell if this book is appropriate for a 6th grader, as it does contain two love-making…more
Hi Mora,

Thank you for your interest in this novel.
It's hard to tell if this book is appropriate for a 6th grader, as it does contain two love-making scenes, not graphic of course but still a love-making.
Originally this book was not intended for the Young Adult readers, despite the protagonists' young ages. Yet gradually it began to be read by younger audience and be of an interest to several school projects (both high-school projects, I believe).
For myself, both my kids, ages 13 and 11, had read it and the sequels with enjoyment.

I would suggest you to maybe read this novel yourself before deciding. It should be a satisfying read for our ages as well :-)

And please, feel free to ask me more question, here on Goodreads, in private messages or at

Zoe Saadia :-)(less)

Community Reviews

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Average rating 3.82  · 
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 ·  817 ratings  ·  118 reviews

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Joseph Spuckler
Feb 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
The Highlander: Rise of the Aztecs #1 by Zoe Saadia is the first in a series of early Mesoamerican historical fiction. Saadia has published a large collection of novels about the Central America’s indigenous peoples.

Most Americans have heard of the Aztecs, but know them mostly from the bloody sacrifices and “savage nature.” There has been quite a bit of embellishment in the Aztec stories that most people know. My knowledge comes mostly from undergraduate history courses where the history begins
“What can I do for you, oh future Emperor?”

Coyotl’s eyes sparkled. “I came to relieve you of the burden of your prisoner.”

“What?” The surprise of the man was genuine this time.

“I came to take your prisoner away,” repeated Coyotl, suddenly more sure of himself.

The eyebrows of the Aztec climbed high. “Is this what the duties of the Emperor's heir have come to? To run around, collecting the offenders who didn’t make it to the court in time? Is the royal house of Texcoco that thirsty for the blo
Terry Tyler
Jan 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I was hugely impressed by this book! It's perfectly edited, deceptively simple, charming, and (oh joy!) without any grammar or punctuation errors. Aside from that, though, it's just really, really good.

I know absolutely nothing about this period of history, but I know that Ms Saadia is something of an authority on it, and this comes across. Although the book is fiction based on historical fact (a genre I love), it could also be read purely as a work of fiction, an adventure story; it's interesti
Julie Black
Oct 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Fresh and relevant, Zoe Saadia’s Highlander stands out in the genre of historical fiction of Ancient Mexico. For the first time, the world of the Ancient Mexicans is brought to light for young-adult readers. Written with intricately woven storytelling, Highlander is a fast-paced adventure, filled with political rivalries, enemy alliances, and endearing relationships. Applause for the historical integrity of Highlander, a must-read for anyone interested in the history of the Aztecs!

Julie Black, a
Karl Wiggins
Mar 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
An excellent book.

Zoe Saadia has found a gap in the market and exploited it marvellously.

If I had to find a fault, and I’m not looking for one in such an superb read, I got slightly confused between all the different tribes, but this doesn’t affect the storyline or the main characters which are introduced well, built with passion and linked together in a manner that promises more from this extraordinary author.

Saadia clearly has strong sensitivities for this era and I look forward to reading
E.L. Lindley
Apr 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The Highlander is the story of two boys whose friendship defies tribal feuds and wars. Initially, I wasn’t sure whether the novel was aimed at a teenage or adult audience but it quickly became apparent that it doesn’t really matter. The Highlander is a thrilling, thought provoking read for all ages.

The two boys, Kuini, a Highlander and Coyotl, who is from the lowlands are both something of free spirits and meet by chance as children. Their friendship endures through secret meetings and notes an
Cathy Ryan
Oct 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The Rise of the Aztecs follows on from the pre Aztec series and the story picks up in 1409 with two boys from vastly differing backgrounds. Coyotl, a Lowlander, first son of the Emperor and Kuini, a Highlander and son of the War Leader from Huexotzinco. The boys meet by chance on Coyotl’s favourite hill which overlooks his altepetl, Texcoco, the capital of the Acolhua people. A growing friendship develops, both expressing interest in the other’s customs and culture. The story is told from each o ...more
Hannah Ross
Apr 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I have always been interested in pre-Columbian America, and this book was like a treasure that fell into my lap. Incredibly detailed and well-researched, it has all the elements of a good story - engaging characters, a fast-paced plot, and forbidden romance. I finished it in about a day and a half, and am looking forward to reading the rest of The Rise of the Aztecs series.

I daresay most novels featuring the native people of the Americas focus on the cultural clash between those people and the
Roy Murry
Oct 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The Highlander, The Rise of the Aztecs
By Zoe Saadia

Reviewed by R. Murry

The Highlander is a well thought out historical novel that portrays real people doing what their nation-tribes have done for years. The main characters are young leaders breaking out into their own pre-determined adventures.

The elders are determined to control their situations in the world. The young people (Coyotl, Kuini, and Izrac) rebel that world in their own way to change it for others and themselves.

Ms. Saadia bri
John Caviglia

This novel is an idea that hits the first page running ... and the pace never quits....

In central Mexico, at a time when there were Aztecs—but shortly before the Aztec empire came to be—there were a number of tribes around Lake Texcoco, and some of them had created what might as well be called city states, for they indeed had cities, with stone buildings, plazas, pyramids.... One of these cities was Tenochtitlan, built on an island, home of the Aztecs.

Coyotl, teen-age son of the ruler of another
J. Else
Sep 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Zoe Saadia's knowledge of the Pre-Columbian Americas really shines through in this historical tale. I love reading historical fiction which is based in fact where the general population is concerned while at the same time giving you a real feel for what living in those ancient times would have been like. Usually, really great fiction can shine a mirror on our present day troubles and cares! The story itself is part of a saga of several books.

I enjoyed this journey into a culture I would otherwi
Jerry Beller
Feb 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The HIGHLANDER is book one in Zoe Saadia's The Rise of the Aztec Series. I like it so much that I already bought the bundle that includes the next three books in the series. This is a story of ancient Mesoamerica and the various cultures within it.

The Highlander is a unique young man who travels outside his people's territory in his teens to spy on a much greater culture, one that has great buildings and much more spectacular on the surface than the much more modest tribe that the Highlander is
Brenda Roberson
Aug 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
THE HIGHLANDER (THE RISE OF THE AZTECS BOOK1) is set in the Aztec lands of a bygone era. It is an exciting adventure that follows the expanding friendship of two boys from opposite tribes, one being a Highlander and the other a Lowlander. It is comical how the young boys fuss at each other, as only young boys can do, to show how "big" they are. This novel will grab your attention and keep you reading well into the night.

Kuini and Coyotl, who meet accidentally, are from different backgrounds and
Autumn Is Azathoth
Oct 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Autumn Is Azathoth by: Zoe Saadia
Review of The Highlander by Zoe Saadia
Rise of the Aztecs Book 1

If you’ve read any of Author Zoe Saadia’s “Pre-Aztec Series,” you know to expect a combination of historical education with a smoothly-written, exciting story involving empathetic characters who maintain the reader’s interest throughout. The first of this new series, “The Highlander,” proves to be no exception. Immediately we get involved with the story of two boys (and one half-sister), one a Highlander, one a Lowlander, as they fol
Jun 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The Highlander is a novel set in the ancient Aztec world. It is about two young men from opposing tribes, Kuini and Coyotl, who accidentally meet and become friends. Coming from different backgrounds and social statuses, the two learn and share with each other. When Kuini finds himself in Coyotl’s noble world, he finds danger at every corner, especially when Kuini meets his Coyotl’s sister who is forced into an unwanted marriage as part of a deal struck with a rival leader.

From pyramids, to temp
Elias Zapple
Aug 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Immerse yourself into the culture and the times of the Aztecs, a most incredible, enthralling and engrossing civilisation. In The Highlander we're transported back to this ancient period where two young men from opposing tribes form an unlikely friendship. Full of twists and turns, an elaborate and magical story full of depth that you'll come away wanting to know more about the Aztecs. A wonderful read that my slugs just adored.
Nov 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I was excited to discover this series and hoping it would be as good as the reviews said it would be. Well, The Highlander (The Rise of The Aztecs Book 1) by Zoe Saadia was even better! Adventure and history merge in a brilliantly written story expertly woven. This novel sweeps you away. I can’t wait for more! Starting the next book tomorrow.
K.R. Cox
Dec 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Saadia makes history interesting. I looked up the historical facts of the Valley of Mexico and found the dry paragraphs attempting to dissolve my eyeballs. I dropped that activity and picked up The Highlander again. It, of course, is a story and the characters are, well, characters, but you could believe they actually existed. A recommended read for those interested in historical fiction.
Aug 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A Great Story

Historical fiction has always amazed me. Throw in a couple of fictional characters and a lot of actual history and one will always be amazed at humankind's ability to adapt. This one has a great storyline and action aplenty. Enjoy, for I sure did.
Sep 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
Previous to this series, I had read almost next to nothing about this period in time nor about the Aztecs. The historical research seems adequate, but the characters are well drawn and the plot exciting. Any time I read the whole series, it's good!
Nov 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-2012
What a pleasure it was starting this series. The highlander is a great read and I devoured this book in no time at all. Couldn't put it down. I have downloaded the next in series and am starting the next adventure.
C.P. Mandara
Aug 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
An exiting romp through ancient history and Aztec culture. Emotionally gripping, well developed plot and pretty stunning imagery. Would certainly read more from this author!
Brian Benson
Dec 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is going to be an amazing series. I can't wait for the next one...
D.S. Taylor
Aug 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
If you want a novel set in the ancient Aztec world look no further than Zoe Saadia. An entertaining read that captures the essence of the period well, without sacrificing the story to do so.
Charlene Stephens Robinson
Apr 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
It's great. Wonderful pre history.

Loved this book. Great pre history explained. Could have happened. Just might have to get the second in the series.
gaverne Bennett
Aug 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
Great read..fascinating period...almost new genre here
Ernesto Yaaron
Apr 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
For any one interested of Ancient Mexico cultures, these series are a must read! From the beginning to the very end, the story will catch your attention by the hand of great characters, both historical and fiction, written so well they'll become part of the very history of ancient Texcoco and Tenochtitlan, and their struggle against their powerful enemies.
Jessie Stevens
Mar 11, 2015 rated it liked it
Can you say… Tenochtitlan, Tepanecs, Tlaxcala and Nezahualcoyotl three times fast?

Yeah, me neither.

But at least now I know what they are! (An Aztec capital, a mesoamerican tribe, a town, and an heir to Texcoco, in case you were wondering.)

The Highlander jumps right to the story, immerses it in history and never pauses to lecture on the subject. This can be a bit confusing when mesoamerica circa 1400’s is completely new to you (as it was to me) but worth it. If given the choice between initial co
Martha Sockel
Sep 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The title of this book intrigued me. The "Rise of the Aztecs" seemed to be a strange title, as the Aztecs are usually associated with falling empires, not the rising ones. Yet, to fall or to be 'discovered' they had to rise at some point, so I decided to give this read a chance.

Well, disappointed I was not! This novel started with a splash, presenting us with two youths from enemy nations, curious with each other to the point of overcoming their initial animosity. As the events unfold and the wa
John Dizon
Aug 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The Highlander by Zoe Saadia is a coming-of-age novel detailing the relationship between two young men whose friendly rivalry develops into a competition reflecting that of their own nations. Kuini and Nezahuacoyotl meet each other in the wilderness and are fascinated in the ensuing exchange in culture. The Highlands are an alien world to the Lowlanders, and both communities have engaged in warfare against each other throughout their recorded history. Only when Coyotl’s sister Iztac is given to ...more
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Zoe Saadia is the author of several novels of pre-Columbian Americas. From the architects of the Aztec Empire to the founders of the Iroquois Great League, from the towering pyramids of the Mexican Valley to the longhouses of the Great Lakes, her novels bring long-forgotten history, cultures and people to life, tracing pivotal events that brought about the greatness of North and Mesoamerica.


Other books in the series

The Rise of the Aztecs (7 books)
  • Crossing Worlds (The Rise of the Aztecs, #2)
  • The Emperor's Second Wife (The Rise of the Aztecs, #3)
  • Currents of War (The Rise of the Aztecs, #4)
  • The Fall of the Empire (The Rise of the Aztecs, #5)
  • The Sword (The Rise of the Aztecs, #6)
  • The Triple Alliance (The Rise of the Aztecs, #7)