Itacate was born under an ill-fated sky just before dawn. The priests predict a terrible future for her, effectively destining her to a life of domestic drudgery. Her twin brother, born seconds later just as the dawn rises, is predicted a life of glory. Itacate doesn’t accept her fate though – secretly she is fascinated by the crafting of gold. This dangerous secret is threatened when the strange warriors arrive and Itacate’s strong Emperor welcomes them as guests rather than meeting them in war. These fearsome warriors seem to love nothing so much as gold and the Emperor is determined to appease them. As Itacate finds herself in the Emperor’s palace working for the very people she believes are her enemy and fighting to keep her secret (and so herself) safe, she catches the attention of one golden haired stranger. Soon the fate of herself, her family and her beloved city are all under threat.
This is the first book I have ever read that features the Aztecs in a sympathetic way. I think most authors are put off by the millions of human sacrifices, but The Goldsmith’s Daughter looks beyond that. What would it be like if you truly believed that for the sun to rise, it requires sacrifice? And what if one of those sacrifices is someone you love? This book by no means justifies the ancient practise, but it uses the Aztec culture as a rich and vibrant backdrop for an interesting story.
Following the events leading up to the Spanish destruction of Tenochtitlan, the great Aztec city, The Goldsmith’s Daughter in one sense has only one possible outcome. However, it is the outcome of Itacate and her family that the reader is emotionally invested in, more than the city that has caused her such pain. The characters were interesting and believable, from the brother who has never needed to be jealous of his sister to the neighbours who mistrust Itacate because of her ‘destiny.’ I loved following Itacate on her journey as she tries to shape her own destiny, both at times achieving and failing in this. My biggest problem with this book is that I don’t believe in love at first sight. I don’t believe that just because two people saw one another on a bridge means that they will be willing to die for one another. I just don’t. In that respect, I found the relationship between Itacate and Francisco quite shallow.
Other than that though, it was a great book set in an interesting culture. If, like me, you don’t know much about the Aztecs other than that they did a lot of human sacrificing, then The Goldsmith’s Daughter will help you to see a whole new side to them. Itacate’s journey is both triumphant and grim, worth reading.